A joint committee of Parliament will move breach of privilege motion against Amazon if a representative of the e-commerce giant does not appear before the panel on October 28, panel chief Meenakshi Lekhi said on Friday.
Amazon, which refused to appear before the Joint Committee of Parliament on Data Protection Bill, was summoned by the panel along with Twitter on October 28. Google and Paytm have been summoned on October 29. Facebook's policy head Ankhi Das appeared before the panel on Friday on the issue of data safety and was questioned by its members for almost two hours, sources said. Talking about the schedule of the meetings of the panel, Lekhi said Amazon refused to appear before the panel.
"Amazon has refused to appear before the panel on October 28 and if no one on behalf of the e-commerce company appears, it amounts to breach of privilege," she told PTI. "The panel is unanimous in its opinion that further a coercive action can be suggested to the government against the e-commerce company," she said.
Echoing similar sentiments, Congress MP Vivek Tankha said no one can take the Indian state and its Parliament lightly. The joint committee of both houses is like a mini-Parliament, he said. When contacted, BJD MP Amar Pattnaik said that refusing to depose before joint committee of Parliament is equal to refusing to depose before the house.
Such instances amount to breach of privilege and the consequences must follow, he said. Amazon's public policy official in response to the parliamentary committee has expressed the e-commerce company's inability to appear before the panel as its subject experts (on data protection) are based overseas and cannot travel because of COVID-19.
Taking a strong objection to this argument of Amazon, a member of the panel said it is strange that the company, with customer base of several crores and India being its one of the largest markets, doesn't have data safety officials in the country. The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad on December 11, 2019. The bill seeks to provide for protection of personal data of individuals and establishes a Data Protection Authority for the same. The Personal Data Protection Bill was later referred to a joint select committee of both Houses of Parliament. The proposed law seeks bar on storing and processing of personal data by entities without the explicit consent of an individual.