India's Draft the Right to Privacy Bill 2014 – Will Modi's BJP Enact it?
(2014) 129 Privacy Laws & Business International Report, 21-24
5 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2014 Last revised: 7 Apr 2015
Date Written: June 1, 2014
From 2011-13 there were three significant proposals for a comprehensive data privacy law in India but none gained the endorsement of the previous government. The overwhelming victory in India’s May 2014 national elections of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may end the log-jam of legislative inactivity that characterised the last few years of the previous Congress-led government.
In February 2014 the previous Bills were joined by the draft The Right to Privacy Bill 2014, a redraft of its 2011 draft Bill by the Committee of Secretaries (CoS), the heads of seven of India’s most powerful Ministries and Departments. This draft Bill represents the current thinking of India’s bureaucracy, and the election of a new government capable of enacting legislation makes it timely to review its main provisions.
This article argues that, for residents of India (but not persons overseas), this Bill would, if enacted, provide significant protections of international standards, if they were enforced. That is a significant ‘if’, because the enforcement mechanisms in the current ‘Rules’, particularly the Cyber-Appellate Tribunal (CAT) which this Bill also relies upon, have not functioned for three years. India has no track record whatsoever of enforcing data privacy laws. It would be up to the proposed data protection authority (DPA) to change that before The Right to Privacy Act would be credible. This brief assessment is not a detailed critical appraisal of the Bill, which would no doubt reveal many points of detail on which it could be improved, but the overall structure of the Bill is sound in theory, and compares well with most data privacy laws in Asia.
A related issue is that the BJP did not have any specific election policy in relation to India’s universal ID numbering system (UID), and so is not committed to scrapping it. BJP Ministers have floated a possible merger of the National Population Register (NPR) being developed by the Registrar General of India (RGI) and the UID. Expanded use of personal identifiers such as the UID are one reason the Notes to the draft 2014 Bill say ‘a need has been felt’ for data privacy legislation. It remains a strong possibility that these two issues will be dealt with together.
Keywords: India, Asia, privacy, data protection, ID, BJP
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