The meeting of Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, has been postponed, its member Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh tweeted. The Lok Sabha Secretariat confirmed to MediaNama that a new date has not been set yet, but the agenda will remain the same. Representatives from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, UIDAI, National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Narcotics Control Board (NCB) are expected to depose in the next meeting. Yesterday, we had reported that the meeting would take place on July 17.

According to rules of procedure, attendance of one-third of the total members is required for quorum, which in this case would be 10 members.

‘Why not conduct meetings virtually?’ ask MPs

Ramesh bemoaned the fact that these meetings cannot be held virtually. Rajya Sabha MP Amar Patnaik had told MediaNama yesterday that he might have to miss the meeting since it would be difficult for him to comply with the quarantine guidelines in Bhubaneshwar and return for the Finance Committee meeting on July 28. “Would have been ideal if we could have had these meetings online over video conferencing,” he had said. Another Rajya Sabha MP who is a part of the JPC, Derek O’Brien criticised the fact that virtual presence is still not permitted.

After his own committee saw attendance from only 8 of the 29 MPs including himself, Shashi Tharoor, the chairperson of the standing parliamentary committee on information technology, tweeted this morning, “So many MPs who wanted to participate yesterday were prevented by their states’ quarantine rules. It’s surely not beyond India’s technological capacity to conduct secure videoconferences?”

We had earlier reported that virtual meetings are not permitted as they could compromise parliamentary privilege through the inclusion of a third party (that is, the video conferencing platform).