Privacy in South Asian (SAARC) States: Reasons for Optimism
(2017) 149 Privacy Laws & Business International Report 18-20
6 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2018 Last revised: 13 Jul 2018
Date Written: October 30, 2017
The SAARC region (South Asian Area of Regional Cooperation), comprising the eight states of South Asia (India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Afghanistan), is the Asian sub-region with the least development of data privacy laws. This article reviews the position in the seven South Asian countries other than India, since mid 2014.
Development of privacy protection in South Asia has been stalled by many factors, but there are now some reasons for optimism. Since a previous comprehensive review in mid-2014, there have been no new data privacy laws for any of these countries in the past three years. However, there are indicators that such laws are under development in four (Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal and Maldives), plus significant developments in other countries in relation to Right to Information (RTI) laws, and some political and other developments important to note in relation to potential longer-term developments. There are no relevant regional developments resulting from the SAARC agreements.
However, the most significant regional factor is the possible implications of the Indian Supreme Court decision on the fundamental constitutional right of privacy. A nine judge ‘constitution bench’ of India’s Supreme Court unanimously decided in Puttaswamy v Union of India on 24 August 2017 that India’s Constitution recognises an inalienable and inherent right of privacy as a fundamental constitutional right. Puttaswamy has already had an effect on litigation in Sri Lanka, and is likely to affect privacy developments in South Asia and elsewhere for decades to come.
Keywords: data protection, privacy, SAARC, South Asia, India
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