Over 150 activists, academicians, lawyers and software professionals, among others, have written to the Justice B.N. Srikrishna data protection committee, demanding the panel to be more transparent about its deliberations. “We write to you with serious concern regarding the fact that the policy framework for data protection is being developed by overriding established democratic practices,” the letter says. The letter pointed out that the draft Data Protection bill, which the committee has been tasked with creating, has not been released in the public domain. On Tuesday, MediaNama reported that the IT Ministry had refused to disclose the draft bill — and other submissions sent to the committee — under the RTI Act.
The letter pointed out that the government’s Pre-legislative consultation policy requires deliberations and submissions during any consultative process to be made public. This is a common feature of TRAI consultations, for instance. This has not happened in the case of the Srikrishna Committee, which has refused to disclose submissions made to it, and has said that the draft bill will only be made available after being cleared by the Cabinet when it is headed to Parliament. “While on the one hand there have been selective leaks from this Committee, on the other hand, the Committee has failed in being transparent in its proceedings,” the letter says.
“The lack of diversity in the composition of the Committee with respect to their opinions on key issues is glaring,” the letter continued, claiming that Justice Srikrishna did not exercise his right to add more members. In a previous open letter signed by some of the same members, it was pointed out that the Srikrishna Committee does not, significantly, include members of the civil society and subject experts. “Co-opt members of academics, members of civil society, technologists and experts who hold views independent or even critical of Aadhaar, to improve the diversity of the committee,” that letter recommended.
The Srikrishna Committee is yet to submit its report to the government, and it is unclear when it will do so.
Disclosure: Apar Gupta, who signed the letter that is the subject of this article, is a founding member of the Internet Freedom Foundation. Nikhil Pahwa, editor & publisher of MediaNama, is also founding member and chairman at the Foundation.