New Data Protection Bill

Supreme Court: A constitution Bench comprising of K.M. Joseph, Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and C.T. Ravikumar J.J, considered the submission made by the Attorney General for India, R. Venkataramani appearing on behalf of the Centre that the new Data Protection Bill (‘the new Bill’) was ready to be introduced in the Monsoon Session of the Parliament to be held in July 2023 which would address all the concerns raised by the petitioners, during the course of hearing of the matter pertaining to the latest privacy policy of WhatsApp. The Bench consequently deferred the hearing till August 2023.

The issue before the Court pertains to the question whether WhatsApp’s privacy policy which was introduced in January 2021 is in violation of right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

The Bench on 11-04-2023 directed the registry to place the matter before the Chief Justice of India so that the Constitution Bench could be constituted afresh by the first week of August 2023 since two judges of the existing Bench i.e., Justice Joseph and Justice Rastogi were to retire in June 2023

We take note of the submission of the AG that a Bill which would address all concerns will be tabled in the monsoon session in July 23. Considering the circumstances, the matter to be placed before CJI for a bench to be constituted preferably in first week of August,” the Supreme Court ordered.

However, Senior Advocate Shyam Divan appearing on behalf of the petitioner vehemently opposed the contention of the respondents to defer the matter till August 2023 stating that the Bench ought not to link Court proceedings to the complex legislative process which may cause inordinate delay. He pointed out the fact that even earlier the Bench was apprised that the new Bill would be introduced in the Winter Session of Parliament, which never took place.

I would request that it be listed earlier, because it was listed in September…then they had till January…because it was supposed to be introduced in the winter session.”

However, the Attorney General emphasised on the fact that qualified consultation was a continues process. Considering the circumstances, the Bench shelved the hearing.

The Court on 01-02-2023 had directed WhatsApp to widely publicize its stand that its users in India did not have to accept its 2021 privacy policy to use the mobile application and its functionality would remain unaffected till the new Bill came into existence.

[Karmanya Singh Sareen v Union of India, Special Leave to Appeal 804 of 2017, heard on 11-04-2023]

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