In another blow for privacy in India, the notorious Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023 was passed by the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament today, August 7. India’s upper house, the Rajya Sabha, must seize the last opportunity to amend the Bill before it’s written into law — protect the rights of people across India now.
The Bill now enables the government to block information and services on broad grounds. Further, it weakens India’s celebrated right to information through a blanket restriction on disclosure of personal information, even though the Right to Information Act already protects privacy.
It was today opposed by some parliamentarians, whose reasons paralleled external stakeholders’: it jeopardises privacy, grants excessive exemptions to the government, and fails to establish an independent regulator. In addition to enhancing the government’s control over personal data, the Bill also contains insidious provisions that will aggravate existing red flags on censorship and damage the right to information regime.
In what is on brand for this Bill in terms of the refusal to incorporate feedback from civil society, many rights-damaging provisions have never been released for consultation. The lower house debated the Bill for less than one hour before passing it without any substantive amendments.
Parliamentarians have a responsibility towards the people of India to make drastic amendments as the Bill makes its way through the upper house. Without these much needed changes, privacy in India will be worse off than it is now.