Denial of information grossly improper: Central Information Commission

Denial of information grossly improper: Central Information Commission

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has said that the electronics and information technology ministry’s denial of information about comments related to the public consultation on the Personal Data Protection Bill is “grossly improper”.

On December 11, 2019, Personal Data Protection Bill was introduced in India’s parliament. The bill, which covers the cross border transfer of data, sets rules for the use of personal data by government and private companies. The bill’s provision regarding the localisation of data within the country and curbs on data sharing across borders have got a lot of criticism from global technology companies.

In 2019, a joint parliamentary committee was set up to review the bill. The parliamentary panel received its first extension till the winter session last year. Last month, it received an extension till the first week of the second half of the budget session.

In an order dated March 25, Information commissioner Vanaja Sarna directed the concerned officer to revisit the application. Sarna clarified that in case the ministry cannot justify the right grounds to withhold the information, the details should be made public. The direction given by the commissioner should be followed within 15 days from the date of receipt of the order.

A ministry official informed that they’ll look into the order.

Digital rights advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation sought information under the Right To Information (RTI) Act.  The RTI was filed on the consultations conducted before drafting the bill around three years ago.  

On Friday, the group took to micro blogging site and wrote, “We will keep persisting for transparency around the Data Bill.”

Last year in October, Information commissioner Sarna had rebuked  three ministry officials for denying information regarding those involved creation of the indigenous Covid-19 contact tracing app, Aarogya Setu. Later, the ministry ordered action against the officers responsible for the evasive response over the setup of the app.  

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