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DPDP Bill, 2022: A Small Amendment May Impact Indians’ Rights to Information and Accountability

How removing an important clause of Section(8)(1)(j) of the RTI Act by the draft data protection bill can undermine transparency: a deep dive

Last week's draft data protection law curiously included amendments to India's Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act). Experts MediaNama spoke to warn that the innocuous amendment—ignored in much of the media's coverage of the Bill—could have detrimental impacts on citizens' rights to access information and demand accountability from the government. What's the amendment?: Through Section 30(2)(a), the draft Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022 (DPDP Bill), proposes significantly slimming down Section 8(1)(j), one of the various exemptions where Indian citizens are not entitled to information under the RTI Act. What is Section 8(1)(j)?: The provision stipulates that the Indian state is not obliged to disclose personal information under the RTI Act which has no relationship to any public interest or activity,  or which causes the unwarranted invasion of the individual's privacy. This can be overridden provided the Central or State Public Information Officer, or the appellate authority, determines that the "larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information". A proviso immediately following Section 8(1)(j) further adds that information that cannot be denied to the Parliament or to a State Legislature will not be denied to an individual person. What does the amendment edit out?: "The Indian state is not obliged to disclose information which relates to personal information," the amended clause would state. Section 30(2)(b) of the Bill further deletes the clause's accompanying proviso. Why is this being proposed?: "To bring in 'consistency'," answers the Hindustan Times citing the "proposal" for the law. Yet, neither the DPDP Bill, nor the explanatory note accompanying it, actually clarifies why…

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I'm interested in stories that explore how countries use the law to govern technology—and what this tells us about how they perceive tech and its impacts on society. To chat, for feedback, or to leave a tip: aarathi@medianama.com

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