Centre Withdraws Data Protection Bill, Proposes New Legislation

The decision to withdraw came following recommendations by the Joint Committee of Parliament, said IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.

The Indian government on Wednesday withdrew the controversial Personal Data Protection Bill 2019, which had earlier come under scrutiny in 2021 for the enormous access to data it demanded from tech companies on Indian users.

The decision to withdraw came following recommendations by the Joint Committee of Parliament (JCP), said Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw.

In a media statement, he said, "The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 was deliberated in great detail by the Joint Committee of Parliament. 81 amendments were proposed and 12 recommendations were made towards comprehensive legal framework on digital ecosystem."

"Considering the report of the JCP, a comprehensive legal framework is being worked upon. Hence, in the circumstances, it is proposed to withdraw 'The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019' and present a new bill that fits into the comprehensive legal framework," he added.

In November last year, the JCP published its report on the bill suggesting that all social media platforms (or intermediaries) should be classified as publishers, and thus be held accountable for the content posted by users on their platforms. It also suggested the mandatory verification of the users on the platform, for those who provide the necessary documents for verification.

It had further called for the establishment of an independent body intended to regulate social media platforms. The report drew a number of dissent notes from opposing party members who argued that the bill gave "unbridled" exceptions to the state, and provided it with sweeping powers to break privacy.

Also Read | Data Protection Bill: Here's Why Opposition MPs Have Dissented

Opposing politicians were not the only ones worried - the report had also drawn sharp criticism from tech privacy advocates who argued that the bill could be used to force tech companies to provide unspecified access to personal and non-personal user data from Indians.

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