In what could signify the importance Prime Minister Narendra Modi gives to data privacy of citizens amid the ongoing tussle with Big Tech, five members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill have been inducted into the Union Council of Ministers. However, the moot question is that whether the key panel report after several hearings with Big Tech representative is ready to be submitted in the monsoon session?
While panel Chairperson Meenakshi Lekhi has taken charge as new Minister of State for External Affairs and Minister of State for Culture, Ashwini Vaishnaw, a Rajya Sabha member from Odisha, has taken charge of the Ministry of Electronics and IT and Railways, replacing Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Data protection bill committee member Rajeev Chandrasekhar is the new Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, and Electronics and IT.
Another panel member Ajay Bhatt has been inducted as Minister of State for Defence and Tourism.
The elevation of Bhupender Yadav, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national general secretary since 2010 and Rajya Sabha MP, to the Union Cabinet is being seen as a reward for being a dependable organisation man.
According to New Delhi-based cyberlaw expert Virag Gupta, the cabinet reshuffle scenario raises two pertinent questions on data protection law which is urgently needed in India.
“First, ministers cannot hold membership or chairmanship of parliamentary committees, so JPC on data protection may require to be reshuffled if its report has not yet been submitted,” Gupta told IANS.
“Second, there were reports that this bill may come for discussion in the monsoon session of the parliament but if JPC is reshuffled, will it further delay the passing of data protection law by the Parliament?” he asked.
Formed in December 2019, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Personal Data Protection Bill committee has 18 members — 19 from Lok Sabha and nine from Rajya Sabha.
The panel has summoned India representatives of Twitter, Facebook, Google and e-commerce major Amazon in various hearings to date.
The committee was given an extension till the upcoming monsoon session to submit its report.