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Industry none too happy with proposed information bill

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The government move to replace the Collection of Statistics Act 1953 with the Collection of Statistics Bill, 2007, empowering the government to seek sensitive corporate data has been criticised by the industry.

In the amended legislation proposed to be brought by the government, an informant asked to furnish any information under the provisions of the Act shall be bound to do so. Moreover, the Bill provides that the statistics officer or any person authorised by him in writing may enter any premises for the purposes of collection of statistics and may inspect and take copies of it.

The Bill provides extensive areas in which information can be collected, said Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

The industry felt that power to collect information should be made clear through guidelines to include the purpose behind collecting information and limit the collection to macro level information excluding confidential information, personal identifiable information, sensitive industry or competitive information, third-party information and economic value-attached information.

In cases where corporate companies are bound under confidentiality agreements with outside parties, or in case of price-sensitive information that cannot be disclosed before making a disclosure to the stock exchange under the Listing Agreement, the companies should be entitled to seek additional time to submit the requisite information.

The CII said formal request for collection of information should be made in writing since other methods are unreliable and can be misused by unscrupulous elements, unless stringent safeguards or controls are prescribed to ensure authenticity and confidentiality

The industry felt sufficient time should be given for submission of such information and an extreme step like entering the premises should be backed by justifiable reasons and may be resorted to only when information required has not been submitted even after a reasonable time has elapsed. As statistical information is sensitive, the government should not outsource it to any agency without prescribing adequate safeguards and governance process.

It said publication of information must be permitted only after obtaining a court order and after an opportunity of hearing the informant. A ‘right to appeal’ mechanism against requisition of information should be provided for within the Act. A specific provision that even by filing an application under Right to Information Act such information cannot be obtained by any third person, must be incorporated to secure confidentiality.

– Sri Krishna

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