Law Minister seeks stand-alone privacy legislation, writes to PM

Even as differences continue to persist between the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Personnel's Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) over the scope and need for a privacy law for the citizens of the country, Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh underlining the urgent need to bring in a "stand-alone privacy legislation" for the country.

Sources told The Sunday Express that Kumar wrote to the Prime Minister early this week, seeking his intervention in the issue.

Kumar's proactive approach on the issue assumes significance in view of the conflicting stands taken by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and DoPT in the matter.

"The urgency to introduce a stand-alone privacy legislation is heightened by the fact that both state and non-state actors are enabled through advances in technology... It is necessary that safeguard mechanism be put in place to prevent abuse of citizens' privacy," the minister is learnt to have conveyed to the Prime Minister.

As Minister of State for Planning, Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, Kumar had constituted a committee of experts headed by former Delhi High Court chief justice A P Shah to suggest changes in law to safeguard privacy of individual citizens. The group of experts submitted their report on October 16 last, in which, among other things, it suggested a privacy law for the country.

This law, the panel said, should contain guidelines to protect infringement of personal data in the private and public spheres, unless done as per procedure laid down in law. It also suggested setting up privacy commissioners, both at the Central and State levels.

In recent times, the demand for a stringent law aimed at protecting privacy of the citizens has gathered steam after leading industrialist Ratan Tata, who was till recently chairman of the Tata Group, voiced the need for a law to keep a tab on invasion of people's privacy. Tata is also a petitioner in the Supreme Court, where he has sought a direction to the government to probe the leakage of intercepted telephone conversations that he had with controversial corporate lobbyist Niira Radia.

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