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Privacy Bill proposes stringent punishment, data authority

New Delhi: Government is drafting a new law that provides for stringent punishment, including revocation of licences of telecom service providers, for illegally intercepting telephone calls and making their content public.

The Right to Privacy Bill, which is likely to be tabled in the next session of Parliament, also proposes to set up a Data Protection Authority of India (DPAI) to monitor and enforce compliance of all provisions and receive and investigate complaints about alleged violations of data protection rules.

The Bill does not intend sparing government officers and has provisions for tough punishment for the head of any department which indulges in circulating the intercepted data in public.

While illegal snooping or interception can land a person in jail for a period of five years and a fine up to Rs one lakh, people involved in circulation of an intercepted communication or any other personal information shall be punished with a prison term of three years and with a fine up to Rs 50,000.

"Any person who knowingly and wilfully request or obtains any record concerning an individual from any person or officer of the Government or any agency thereof under false pretences shall be punishable with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees," the Bill says.

"In case of violation of condition of licence of the service providers pertaining to maintenance of secrecy and confidentiality of information and unauthorised interception of communication, the service provider (besides the penalty) shall be liable for suspension or revocation of their licences," it says.

DPAI will probe any data security breach and issue appropriate orders as may be required to safeguard security interests of all affected individuals with regard to personal data that has or is likely to have been compromised by security breach.

According to the Bill, DPAI shall consist of a chairperson and not more than two members who have special knowledge and professional experience of data protection, industry, finance, law management and consumer affairs and the selection shall be done by the government.

The members to be appointed to this Authority need to have served in the central or state government as secretary or additional secretary for a period of three years.

The chairperson and the members shall hold office for such a period not exceeding three years or 65 years of age whichever is earlier.

The Bill bars any further employment for the members of chairperson by the Centre or state governments in any capacity. Such practice is being followed so far in Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) who is not given any further employment after retirement.

Taking a tough stand against government officers, the Bill proposes that "where an offence under this Act has been committed by any department of the Government, the Head of the Department shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly unless he proves that the offence was committed without his/her knowledge or he/she exercised due diligence to prevent the commission of such offence."

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