The Centre on Wednesday introduced the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, empowering the government to ask companies including Facebook, Google, and others for anonymised personal data and non-personal data.
The move was vehemently opposed by the Congress and the TMC. Calling it a violation of "fundamental rights" of citizens, they demanded its (the bill's) examination by a Joint Parliamentary Committee.
Introducing the Bill in the Lower House, Union Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad rejected the Opposition's objection, saying "by this data protection, they are safeguarding the rights of Indians".
"As per the architecture of the Bill, if data is taken without consent of the individual, you will suffer a penalty," Prasad said.
"The second is, if you misuse the data beyond the permissible consent, you will suffer consequences. And we have given penalty of crores of rupees on all the persons. Therefore, by this data protection, they are safeguarding the rights of Indian."
Referring to the Opposition's claim that the Supreme Court (SC) has held that privacy is a fundamental right of individuals, the Minister said the members are right but the apex court had also pointed that a corrupt person don't have the right of privacy.
"The SC in Aadhaar case itself had emphasised that we must come with a data protection law. Therefore, there is a mandate of the SC also that we must come with the data protection law," Prasad said.
The Minister clarified that the government did not come with this Bill suddenly and that it had set up a committee headed by a very distinguished SC judge Justice B.N. Srikrishna before taking the decision.
"They had set up a member committee also. They had the widest consultations in the entire country. At least 2,000 recommendations came. After the discussions, we have come here."
The Bill has created quite a buzz since Tuesday after it came to light that the latest version of the Bill seeks to allow the use of personal and non-personal data of users in some cases, especially when national security is involved.
Several legal experts have already red-flagged the issue and said the provision will give the government unaccounted access to personal data of users in the country.
It is learnt that the Bill defines personal data as information that can help in the identification of an individual and has characteristics, traits and other features of a person's identity.
Raising objection over the Bill, Congress's Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said "our privacy is already under threat".
"Snooping industries has been growing under your leadership... When our privacy is under threat, when our people are fighting in the SC for the battle of privacy that time I think this kind of Bill should be examined thoroughly."
He said that the government should not bring this Bill in such a "supercilious" manner. "I know that you are in a majority of numbers but you cannot bulldoze this kind of Bill in such a supercilious manner. This Bill should be examined thoroughly by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC).
TMC's Saugata Roy opposed the Bill, saying "there is no necessity for this Bill".
"The problem of privacy can be dealt with under existing laws of the country... This will further made matters complicated and lead to bureaucratic hassles. This Bill will not give us protection from snooping by foreign and regional companies on our data."
Opposing the introduction of the Bill, TMC's Mahua Moitra said the move is a "violation of fundamental rights of privacy of citizens held by the Supreme Court. "We oppose the Bill in its current form and request to put up to the Standing Committee for Information Technology."