Today, the 5-Judge Constitution Bench led by Justice K.M. Joseph enquired about the status of the Digital Data Protection Bill, 2022 (the Bill). In the last hearing on February 1st, 2023, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared, representing the Union government. He claimed that the Bill would be introduced in Parliament in March 2023 and would solve all the concerns raised by the petitioners.
A two-judge Bench of the Delhi High Court rejected the petition on September 23rd 2016. The Court, however, directed WhatsApp to delete the data of users who choose to delete the application before September 25th, 2016.
After that, the petitioners filed a Special Leave Petition at the Supreme Court against the Delhi High Court judgment. The SLP was initially heard by a Division Bench and referred to a Constitution Bench on April 5th, 2017.
The Attorney General informed the Bench that the Bill has been finalized and will be tabled in Parliament during the upcoming monsoon session starting from July 2023. He reiterated that this proposed legislation would address all the privacy concerns raised by the petitioners. Thus, it is imperative that the case be put on hold until after Bill’s introduction in Parliament.
Sr. Adv. Shyam Divan remained unconvinced. He drew the Court’s attention to the Union’s earlier claims (since September 2022) of introducing the Bill in Parliament which never materialised. He argued that legislative processes were unpredictable, so the Bench must not let it affect judicial proceedings.
The Attorney General immediately countered Mr. Divan. He stated that the legislative process is a continuous one. It was necessary to ensure that good laws are enacted. Therefore, it was not unreasonably time-consuming.
After hearing both parties and considering the retirement of Justices K.M. Joseph and Ajay Rastogi in June 2023, the Bench directed Registry to place the case before the CJI in August 2023. The CJI may then constitute a different Bench to hear the case if necessary.