Where’s my data privacy bill: Retired judge

Says India is a free country, but I am doubtful

FPJ BureauUpdated: Tuesday, June 01, 2021, 01:23 AM IST
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New Delhi

Retired Supreme Court Judge Bellur N Srikrishna (80), who headed many commissions, including one to probe the Mumbai riots as then sitting Bombay HC judge and the 6th central pay commission, has questioned vanishing of the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill he had submitted to the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) in July 2018 and which was put by the ministry for public comments till October 10 that year.

If the PDP Bill was in place, it would have clearly led down the privacy requirem­ents of the companies, user rights, mechanisms for government surveillance and established a regulator for concerns, he said in an interview to a financial daily on Monday, noting the Bill must have become a law by now.

He slams the government for mandating social media platforms like WhatsApp and Twitter under the new intermediary guidelines imposed last week through the rules notified in February, holding it is illegal unless it is backed by a law passed by Parliament as recommended by him as the chairman of a 10-member expert committee.

Justice Srikrishna rues the current face-off between the Centre and the global social media platforms and other attempts to muzzle the voices against the government as an “undeclared emergency” in the country. He said: “I still think it is a free country, but I am getting more and more doubtful about it.”

He says a law passed by Parliament is the right approach to specify the strict “circumstances under which the right of privacy will be subject to restrictions” and made applicable on social media and OTT platforms.

“The problem with the government is it always puts the cart before the horse and gets into a mess like it did with Aadhaar. It must have had a privacy policy first. Same is the issue here,” he said.

Highlighting what he term­ed as the lack of necessary safeguards in the hotly-debated IT Rules, the former SC judge, who retired in May 2006, said the requirements such as traceability can open up unregulated access to the private messages.

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