Politics has erupted over the crucial Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022, as most of the opposition parties are of the opinion that there should be greater scrutiny of the proposed legislation and the union government must not use its greater strength to pass the bill.
Ahead of the three-week-long winter session of parliament, which starts on Dec. 7, the draft Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022, is slowly becoming a reason for the opposition parties to unite.
Most of the opposition parties are of the view that the union government must agree that a joint parliamentary committee or at least a standing committee must study the bill before it gets passed in both houses of parliament. The government is likely to table the bill in the winter session, and the draft is already out for people and experts to study. The winter session ends on Dec. 29.
“We admit that the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022 is extremely crucial, and there is in-principle agreement that it should be referred to a standing committee or a select committee for further study. A final strategy on the bill and other issues that need to be raised during the winter session will come up for discussion when all opposition parties meet on Dec. 6 to formulate a strategy,” said Manoj Jha, member of parliament in the Rajya Sabha of the Rashtriya Janata Dal.
The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, was brought before the Lok Sabha by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government during the winter session, and it was tabled in December 2019.
However, the bill could not get passed and was referred to a joint parliamentary committee for further scrutiny because of the relentless demands of opposition parties. The union government, however, decided to withdraw the bill from parliament during the winter session in December 2021, promising to bring a more comprehensive bill that will address all of the concerns raised by several experts.
“There is no doubt that this new bill should be sent to a standing committee or some other parliamentary committee for scrutiny. It is a very crucial bill and will impact the lives of many people. It must be studied further. We are of the opinion that it must be sent to a parliamentary committee, and I am sure leaders of the Congress party will raise this demand on the floor of the house when it comes up for discussion,” said a senior Congress leader on condition of anonymity.
Members of the Congress said that former president Sonia Gandhi, current President Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, and other senior leaders will meet before the parliament session to decide on the issues that will be raised for discussion in both the houses.
The union government is facing two sets of problems in the winter session. The first is a united opposition that wants to corner the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party on the floor of the house. And the second is that it lacks the required number in the upper house of parliament. With just 92 members of the BJP, the ruling National Democratic Alliance needs the support of at least 123 MPs for the smooth passage of bills in the Rajya Sabha.
Interestingly, neither the opposition nor the BJP-NDA combined have the required strength in the Rajya Sabha. While the union government enjoys a smooth ride in Lok Sabha, where it enjoys a majority, the problem is in Rajya Sabha.
Members of the union government intend to approach regional parties such as the Biju Janata Dal and the YSR Congress Party, which have 18 MPs in the Rajya Sabha and could hold the key to the passage of important bills in the upper house. Smaller regional parties, such as the Asom Gana Parishad and the Telugu Desam Party, can also lend their support to the government, but each has only one MP in the Rajya Sabha.
“The DPDP Bill, 2022, is in the public domain now, and we have seen the Bill. A final decision on the position of the party will be taken only after the all party meeting. Let us see what comes out of the discussion with the government,” said Bhartruhari Mahtab, Lok Sabha parliamentarian of BJD.