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3-week period to submit comments to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Data Protection Bill begins, deadline Feb 25

Credit: Aditi Agrawal

Update (February 4, 2019 12:51 pm): The deadline to submit comments is February 25.

Update (January 27, 2019 10:02 am): The three-week consultation period will begin only after the notice is published in newspapers across the country, the Director of the JPC told MediaNama. That may happen any day this week.

The Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, has invited comments from stakeholders, Dr Ram Raj Rai, the Director of the JPC at the Lok Sabha Secretariat, confirmed to MediaNama. IANS first reported this development. The official notice for the same will be published in all leading newspapers some time next week, he told us. Stakeholders will have three weeks from the date of publication of the notice to send their comments.

How do you send your submissions? According to Rai, stakeholders can send two copies of their comments and suggestions to him (at Room No. G-014, Parliament House Annexe, New Delhi – 110001) or email them to jpc-datalaw@sansad.nic.in, or to the JPC Chairpereson Meenakshi Lekhi at mrs.mlekhi@sansad.nic.in. Please note that the IANS report gives the wrong email address for Lekhi. If you wish to appear before the Committee, specify that in your submissions, but the JPC will take the final decision on whether or not to call you.

After MediaNama published this article, the Lok Sabha Secretariat tweeted the press release.

Will these submissions be made public? Rai clarified that the submissions will be part of the records of the JPC, that is, they will be “the property of the Committee” and their use will be decided by the JPC itself. On the basis of these submissions, the Committee could decide to call the stakeholders to present evidence, he told us. However, these submissions will not be made public by the Committee.

  • Opaque consultation process: Even when MeitY invited public comments on the PDP Bill, 2018, in August 2018, it refused to make the comments public. When it sought further comments from stakeholders in August 2019, no public consultation followed. For this second round of consultation, MeitY did not reach out to all the stakeholders (over 600 of them) for further comments.

When will the JPC meet next? The Committee’s second meeting has not been scheduled yet, Rai told us. It held its first meeting on January 16 where MeitY briefed the members about the Bill.

The JPC was formed under the chairpersonship of BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi on December 12 and originally had 30 members — 10 from Rajya Sabha and 20 from Lok Sabha. Since it formation, two members, Prof. Saugata Roy (TMC) and S. Jothi Mani (Congress), have resigned from the Committee. Their vacancies will be filled through nominations by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, Rai told us. Once those nominations are made “in concern with the respective political parties”, that is, TMC and Congress in this case, the chairperson, Lekhi, will raise a motion in the Lok Sabha to fill the vacancies, Rai explained. However, it is possible that the vacancies might remain unfilled. Congress’s Manish Tewari is expected to replace Jothi Mani, but Rai told us that no official replacements or nominations have been made yet.

The Committee is expected make its first report to the Lok Sabha by last week of the Budget Session 2020, according to the Lok Sabha memo that announced the Committee’s composition.

***Update (February 4, 2019 12:51 pm): The article was updated with the deadline. The headline was also updated.

***Update (January 27, 2019 10:02 am): The article was updated with information about the consultation period. The headline was also updated.

***Update (January 24 5:34 pm): The article was updated with the Lok Sabha tweet. The article was originally published at 2:41 pm on January 24.

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