Privacy bill held up due to intel agency reservations

The note accessed by New Indian Express shows the proposed law has been hanging fire since 2015 when the last discussion was held on March 19 of that year at North block. 

Published: 07th March 2017 03:30 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th March 2017 03:30 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: In a recent meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at 7 Race Course Road, ministers were advised to talk to each other frequently to speed up decisions. On the table were three important notes flagged by the Prime Minister Office (PMO). At the top was a Right to Privacy law to provide protection to individuals against breach of their privacy. 

The note accessed by New Indian Express shows the proposed law has been hanging fire since 2015 when the last discussion was held on March 19 of that year at North block. 

“The committee of secretaries note on Right to Privacy was returned by the Cabinet Secretariat with a few observations for revision. The matter is under discussion with the Ministry of Home Affairs. In a meeting held on 19.3.2015 with the stakeholders it was decided that these organizations would send their comments on the Bill. Intelligence Agencies suggested wider consultation of the draft bill with other agencies like Financial Intelligence Unit,” the PMO note said. 

The proposed law, which aims to provide protection against snooping on individuals through unlawful and unauthorised interception, was first drafted during the UPA regime in May 2011. 

Intelligence agencies have argued for blanket exemption from the ambit of law since these agencies are neither defined nor established under any law. The draft law maintains that privacy of an individual cannot be infringed except in cases related to the sovereignty, integrity and security of India. This was not acceptable to the intelligence agencies. 

There was also a suggestion from the Ministry of Home Affairs that law enforcement agencies and intelligence units should be exempted from a clause in the bill which stipulates a penalty for obtaining personal data on false pretext. 

Another important policy matter that has been held up and delayed due to prolonged inter-ministerial consultations is the drafting of a law on false claims. Interestingly, this proposal was mooted on October 21, 2010 and seven years down the line, it still doesn’t have a time line. 

“The draft bill was sent to 12 ministries for their views/comments and their replies have been received. The file has been sent to the legislative department of the Ministry of Law and Justice on 08/09/2015 for obtaining their views/comments. The legislative department returned the file on 10.2.2016 for examination and formulation on all aspects of the draft bill vis-a-vis comments of various ministries, which is under consideration of DoPT,” the PMO note said. 

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