Only one Indian party promises digital privacy in its election manifesto so far

Only one Indian party promises digital privacy in its election manifesto so far
CPI-M election decorationsWikimedia

  • The Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPI-M) is the only political party in India to include digital privacy in its election manifesto.
  • Their objectives include putting a stop to ‘bulk surveillance’ and scrapping the Aadhaar biometric identification for social welfare measures.
  • Other political parties in India are yet to unveil their election manifestos.
The Indian general election, the world’s largest and most expensive democratic exercise, is only two weeks away but only one party is promising digital privacy in its election manifesto — the Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPI-M).

The party is not only promising to stop ‘bulk surveillance’ but also scrap the Aadhaar biometric system of identification for welfare measures, which has faced its fair share of controversy since its initiation like the data breach in 2018 where the information of 1.1 billion people was exposed.

Only one Indian party promises digital privacy in its election manifesto so far
Excerpts from CPI-M's election manifesto CPI official site

Section 69 of the Information Technology (IT) Act has often been scrutinized to be in violation of citizen’s right to privacy. It was also challenged by the Indian Supreme Court for being “illegal, unconstitutional and ultra vires to the law.”

Even the draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018 has been under the gun for the same issue, where Section 49 allows the concentration of power to be in the government’s hand when it comes to ordering and reviewing surveillance, without necessitating any court orders to do so. A PWC analysis cites that ‘holistic application’ of the data protection framework in should be one of the key underlying principles.


There should be clear provisions and judicial supervision of any surveillance that violates citizens privacy. Enact data privacy laws that protect the people against appropriation/misuse of users private data for commercial use.

Sitaram Yechury, CPI-M General Secretary while releasing the manifesto

The manifesto also outlines curbing the monopolies of telco operators like Jio, Airtel and Vodafone. According to Caravan’s report, government decisions have had a pivotal role in helping Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio consolidate its power in the telecom space.

To be fair, the other leading parties of India — the Indian National Congress (INC), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) — are yet to lay out their plans.

State of data privacy in India

The CPI(M) cites the intrusion on the right to privacy, enshrined in the Indian constitution, as an ‘áttack on democracy’ in their manifesto. Even the Supreme Court has come out to say that the right to privacy should be one of the key cornerstones for a strong data privacy regime in India.

According to a survey conducted by Analytics India, 79% of Indians aren’t comfortable with their data being sold to third parties. But, the Dell’s Global Data Protection Index 2018 nearly half of Indian businesses are already on the road of monetizing user data — that too without adequate data protection protocols in place.

The United Nations Human Rights’ Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression has mentioned that without the full guarantee of the right to privacy of all individuals, the right to freedom of opinion and expression cannot be fully enjoyed.

While other manifestos are awaited, India's bill for data privacy was introduced under the BJP.

See also:
Here’s what global tech CEOs have to say about India's data protection laws

Indian companies know how to sell data but not how to protect it

Whatsapp, Google yet to fully comply with India’s data localisation norms despite repeated inquiries from the government