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Data Protection Bill 2021: What powers does the government have and how will its offences be handled?

Authority over the bill’s proposed data regulator is just one of the powers that the government will enjoy.

The central government should have absolute power over the Data Protection Authority (DPA) and be able to exempt any government body from the provisions of the bill citing ‘just, fair, reasonable and proportionate procedure’, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill 2021 has recommended in its report. The committee has made significant changes to the 2019 draft, expanding the government’s power over the DPA and implementing light-touch limitations on their ability to exempt government agencies from the bill. The government’s ability to access personal data of citizens can threaten citizens’ right to privacy if not regulated carefully. The independence of the DPA might also be critical to protecting the rights of individuals. Here are the stances the bill takes on these issues. What powers will the central government have under the bill? DPA power: The central government has been given absolute power to direct the DPA in all matters. Earlier draft: The Authority was bound by the central government’s directions specifically ‘on questions of policy’. The draft did mention, however, that the central government’s decision on all questions, whether of policy or not, will be final. Reason for the change: The Committee said that the Authority should be bound by the directions of the central government under all cases and not just on questions of policy. Exemptions for government bodies: The central government will have the authority to exempt any agency of the government from the provisions of the act, subject to just, fair, reasonable and proportionate…

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