India created history when the Lander Module (LM) of the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) third lunar mission Chandrayaan-3, launched on July 14, made a successful landing on the Moon’s surface on August 23, making India only the fourth country after the erstwhile USSR, the U.S. and China to make a soft landing on the lunar surface. With the successful landing of the Lander Module, India has reached the Moon! She has also become the first country to land near the Moon’s south pole.
As India achieved success with its lunar mission, there was a key development on the legal front with the enactment of the much awaited data protection law.
Data Protection Law – In August 2022, the then data protection bill was withdrawn by the Government (reported by Asia Law Portal), ending the efforts made in 5 years prior to that for creating a framework for data protection in India. The discussion around a data protection legislation commenced with the constitution of a Committee of Experts to deliberate on a data protection framework for India on July 31, 2017 and the white paper submitted by this Committee in November 2017, as reported by Asia Law Portal. This process was possibly expedited in the wake of the landmark Supreme Court judgement around the same time holding right to privacy as a Fundamental Right (reported by Asia Law Portal). After the above August withdrawal, the Government was swift in releasing the draft of a new revised and updated bill in November 2022 (reported by Asia Law Portal), rekindling the hope of a legislation. There was not much movement on this bill till June 2023 and it began to gather momentum in July (reported by Asia Law Portal).
We, at Asia Law Portal, have been tracking the progress of this area, which is already a key legal topic globally. We are happy to inform that in lightning speed developing during the first 10 days of August 2023, the Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023 was enacted. The Government introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha on August 03. Soon after, there was a LinkedIn post by Mr. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State at Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India, highlighting the Bill and explaining the Bill through a video clip. The synopsis of the debate during introduction of the Bill provides a summary of the comments of the members who opposed the introduction. The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on August 07 and immediately introduced in the Rajya Sabha. It took only 2 more days for the Rajya Sabha to pass the Bill. The Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023 received assent from the President of India on August 11 and was published in the Official Gazette, ushering in a new regime in India. The Act shall come into force on such date as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint.
Judicial Reforms – The “greatest challenge” before Indian judiciary is to eliminate the barriers to accessing justice and the functionality of courts is “determined by how effectively they can answer the call of Constitutional duty”, Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud said while addressing the Independence Day celebrations organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA). The CJI also emphasised the need to overhaul court infrastructure on priority to make them accessible and inclusive. “As I look towards the future, I believe the greatest challenge before Indian judiciary is to eliminate the barriers to accessing justice,” he said. “We have to enhance access to justice procedurally by eliminating the constraints which prevent citizens from approaching courts, and substantively by building confidence in the court’s ability to dispense justice. And we have the road map in place to make sure that the future Indian judiciary is inclusive and accessible to the last person in the line.” CJI Chandrachud gave details on the “plan to expand the Supreme Court” as part of modernising judicial infrastructure to meet future challenges. The plan, he noted, includes constructing a new building to accommodate 27 additional courts, 51 judges’ chambers, 4 registrar court rooms, 16 registrar chambers, and other requisite facilities for lawyers and litigants. The CJI said the new building will “reflect the Constitutional aspirations, beliefs, and priorities of the people, in addition to providing a space which facilitates access to justice”.
Courts and Computerisation – The Wide Area Network (WAN) Project under eCourts project is aimed at connecting all District and Subordinate court complexes, spread across the country using various technologies like OFC, RF, VSAT. Upto March 2023 , 2976 sites have been commissioned out of 2992 sites with 10 Mbps to 100 Mbps bandwidth speed (completing 99.5% sites). This forms the backbone for the eCourts project ensuring data connectivity in courts across the length and breadth of the country. Many courts under the eCourts project are located in far flung areas, termed as Technically Not Feasible (TNF) sites, where terrestrial cable cannot be used. These sites are being connected using alternative means like RF, VSAT, Submarine cable etc.With coordination with different stakeholders, the Department has been able to reduce the total TNF sites from 58 in 2019 to 1 in 2022 which has resulted in savings of Rs. 95.45 cr.to the exchequer. For these 11 sites also, Work Order has been issued. In the COVID-19 scenario, this WAN connectivity enabled better Video Conferencing facilities and improved access to justice.
ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement – India participated in the 20th ASEAN-India Economic Ministers’ Meeting in Semarang, Indonesia. The main agenda of this year’s meeting was the timely review of ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement (AITIGA) which was signed in 2009. The Economic Ministers’ meeting was preceded by AITIGA Joint Committee meeting, which deliberated the roadmap for the review and finalised the Term of Reference and the Work Plan of the AITIGA Review Negotiations. After constructive discussions, the Ministers endorsed the above review documents, which would pave way for the formal commencement of negotiations with defined modalities. The review of the AITIGA was a long-standing demand of Indian businesses and the early commencement of the review would help in making the FTA trade facilitative and mutually beneficial. The Ministers agreed to follow a quarterly schedule of negotiations and conclude the review in 2025. The review of AITIGA is expected to enhance and diversify trade while addressing the current asymmetry in the bilateral trade. The decision for review of AITIGA will now be placed in the forthcoming India-ASEAN Leaders’ Summit scheduled in early September for further guidance.