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President Signs Off On 4 New Laws, 2 Amid Resistance

12 Aug 2023, 12:39 pm

President Droupadi Murmu today gave assent to four bills passed during the stormy monsoon session of the parliament. The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, The Registration of Births and Deaths (Amendment) Bill, The Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill, and Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill have now been signed into law.

At least two of these Bills, now signed into law, drew stiff resistance from opposition parties.

The Centre's law on control of services in the national capital, which replaces an ordinance that wrested control over Delhi's bureacracy from the Aam Aadmi Party-led government, has seen strong opposition from the INDIA bloc. The opposition alliance's MPs had walked out of the parliament when it was put to vote.

Home Minister Amit Shah had defended the government's proposed law, which overrides a Supreme Court order on who controls bureaucrats in the national capital. After an eight-year tussle between the Centre and the Arvind Kejriwal government, the Supreme Court had ruled that the elected government is the boss of Delhi.

"This ordinance refers to the order of the Supreme Court which says parliament has the right to make laws on any issue related to the National Capital Territory of Delhi. There are provisions in the Constitution that allow the centre to make laws for Delhi," Mr Shah said.

Before the bill was passed, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted the bill only sought to "enslave" the people of Delhi.

The Bill was passed after a division in which 131 MPs voted in favour of the legislation and 102 against it.

The Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Bill was passed by a voice vote amid sloganeering by Opposition members over the Manipur issue. Some of the amendments sought by the Opposition were defeated by voice vote.

The law includes a provision to impose up to ₹ 250 crore penalty for data breaches as it seeks to curb misuse of individuals' data by online platforms.

The Opposition had alleged the law will turn the country into a surveillance state. Critics fear feared allowing processing personal data without consent in nine broad instances could have serious implications for the fundamental right to privacy of citizens.

Exemptions to the state and a contentious clause giving broad exemptions for some companies have also sparked concerns. The centre had previously introduced the Personal Data Protection Bill in 2019 but it was withdrawn last year after scrutiny by a parliamentary committee.

The Editors Guild of India had expressed concerns over certain provisions of the proposed law, saying they can have an adverse impact on press freedom. In a statement, the Guild said it creates an enabling framework for surveillance of citizens, including journalists and their sources.

Under Section 36 of the law, the Guild said, the government can ask any public or private entity (data fiduciary) to furnish personal information of citizens, including journalists and their sources.

The Registration of Births and Deaths (Amendment) Act paves the way for enabling digital birth certificates - which will become the only conclusive age proof and can be used as a single document for numerous purposes.

It also has provisions for allowing the birth certificate to be used for admission to educational institutions, issuing driving licence, registration of marriage, appointment to a government job and availing food welfare schemes.

The Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Act seeks to promote ease of business by decriminalising minor offences through amendments in 183 provisions of 42 Acts.

The Act converts several fines to penalties, meaning that court prosecution is not necessary to administer punishments. It also removes imprisonment as a punishment for many offences.

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