Centre for Internet & Society

Digvijay Chaudhary and Anamika Kundu wrote an article on the National Data Governance Framework Policy. It was edited by Shweta Mohandas.


Non Personal Data (‘NPD’) can be understood as any information not relating to an identified or identifiable natural person. The origin of such data can be both human and non-human. Human NPD would be such data which has been anonymised in such a way that the person to whom the data relates cannot be re-identified. Non-human NPD would mean any such data that did not relate to a human being in the first place, for example, weather data. There has been a gradual demonstrated interest in NPD by the government in recent times. This new focus on regulating non personal data can be owed to the economic incentive it provides. In its report, the Sri Krishna committee, released in 2018 agreed that NPD holds considerable strategic or economic interest for the nation, however, it left the questions surrounding NPD to a future committee.

History of NPD Regulation

In 2020, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (‘MEITY’) constituted an expert committee (‘NPD Committee’) to study various issues relating to NPD and to make suggestions on the regulation of non-personal data. The NPD Committee differentiated NPD into human and non-human NPD, based on the data’s origin. Human NPD would include all information that has been stripped of any personally identifiable information and non-human NPD meant any information that did not contain any personally identifiable information in the first place (eg. weather data). The final report of the NPD Committee is awaited but the Committee came out with a revised draft of its recommendations in December 2020. In its December 2020 report, the NPD Committee proposed the creation of a National Data Protection Authority (‘NPDA’) as it felt this is a new and emerging area of regulation. Thereafter, the Joint Parliamentary Committee  on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 (‘JPC’) came out with its version of the Data Protection Bill where it amended the short title of the PDP Bill 2019 to Data Protection Bill, 2021 widening the ambit of the Bill to include all types of data. The JPC report focuses only on human NPD, noting that non-personal data is essentially derived from one of the three sets of data - personal data, sensitive personal data, critical personal data - which is either anonymized or is in some way converted into non-re-identifiable data.

On February 21, 2022,  the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (‘MEITY’) came out with the Draft India Data Accessibility and Use Policy, 2022 (‘Draft Policy’). The Draft Policy was strongly criticised mainly due to its aims to monetise data through its sale and licensing to body corporates. The Draft Policy had stated that anonymised and non-personal data collected by the State that has “undergone value addition” could be sold for an “appropriate price”. During the Draft Policy’s consultation process, it had been withdrawn several times and then finally removed from the website. The National Data Governance Framework Policy (‘NDGF Policy’) is a successor to this Draft Policy. There is a change in the language put forth in the NDGF Policy from the Draft Policy, where the latter mainly focused on monetary growth. The new NDGF Policy aims to regulate anonymised non-personal data (‘NPD’) kept with governmental authorities and make it accessible for research and improving governance. It wishes to create an ‘India Datasets programme’ which will consist of the aforementioned datasets. While  MEITY has opened the draft for public comments, is a need to spell out the procedure in some ways for stakeholders to draft recommendations for the NDGF policies in an informed manner. Through this piece, we discuss the NDGF Policy in terms of issues related to the absence of a comprehensive Data Protection Framework in India and the jurisdictional overlap of authorities under the NDGF Policy and DPB.

What the National Data Governance Framework Policy Says

Presently in India, NPD is stored in a variety of governmental departments and bodies. It is difficult to access and use this stored data for governmental functions without modernising collection and management of governmental data. Through the NDGF Policy, the government aims to build an Indian data storehouse of anonymised non-personal datasets and make it accessible for both improving governance and encouraging research. It imagines the establishment of an Indian Data Office (‘IDO’)  set up by MEITY , which shall be responsible for consolidating data access and sharing of non-personal data across the government. In addition, it also mandates a Data Management Unit for every Ministry/department that would work closely with the IDO. IDO will also be responsible for issuing protocols for sharing NPD. The policy further imagines an Indian Data Council (‘IDC’) whose function would be to define frameworks for important datasets, finalise data standards, and Metadata standards and also review the implementation of the policy. The NDGF Policy has provided a broad structure concerning the setting up of anonymisation standards, data retention policies, data quality, and data sharing toolkit. The NDGF Policy states that these standards shall be developed and notified by the IDO or MEITY or the Ministry in question and need to be adhered to by all entities.

The Data Protection Framework in India

The report adopted by the JPC, felt that it is simpler to enact a single law and a single regulator to oversee all the data that originates from any data principal and is in the custody of any data fiduciary. According to the JPC, the draft Bill deals with various kinds of data at various levels of security. The JPC also recommended that since the Data Protection Bill (‘DPB’) will handle both personal and non-personal data, any further policy / legal framework on non-personal data may be made a part of the same enactment instead of any separate legislation. The draft DPB states that what is to be done with the NDP shall be decided by the government from time to time according to its policy. As such, neither the DPB, 2021 nor the NDGF Policy go into details of regulating NPD but only provide a broad structure of facilitating free-flow of NPD, without taking into account the specific concerns that have been raised since the NPD committee came out with its draft report on regulating NPD dated December 2020.

Jurisdictional overlaps among authorities and other concerns

Under the NDGF policy, all guidelines and rules shall be published by a body known as the Indian Data Management Office (‘IDMO’). The IDMO is set to function under the MEITY and work with the Central government, state governments and other stakeholders to set standards. Currently, there is no sign of when the DPB will be passed as law. According to the JPC, the reason for including NPD within the DPB was because of the impossibility to differentiate between PD and NPD. There are also certain overlaps between the DPB and the NDGF which are not discussed by the NDGF. NDGF does not discuss the overlap between the IDMO and Data Protection Authority (‘DPA’) established under the DPB 2021.

Under the DPB, the DPA is tasked with specifying codes of practice under clause 49. On the other hand, the NDGF has imagined the setting up of IDO, IDMO, and the IDC, which shall be responsible for issuing codes of practice such as data retention, and data anonymisation, and data quality standards. As such, there appears to be some overlap in the functions of the to-be-constituted DPA and the NDGF Policy.

Furthermore, while the NDGF Policy aims to promote openness with respect to government data, there is a conflict with open government data (‘OGD’) principles when there is a price attached to such data. OGD is data which is collected and processed by the government for free use, reuse and distribution. Any database created by the government must be publicly accessible to ensure compliance with the OGD principles.


Streamlining datasets across different authorities is a huge challenge for the government and hence the NGDF policy in its current draft requires a lot of clarification. The government can take inspiration from the European Union which in 2018, came out with a principles-based approach coupled with self-regulation on the framework of the free flow of non-personal data. The guidance on the free-flow of non-personal data defines non-personal data based on the origin of data - data which originally did not relate to any personal data (non-human NPD) and data which originated from personal data but was subsequently anonymised (human NPD). The regulation further realises the reality of mixed data sets and regulates only the non-personal part of such datasets and where the datasets are inextricably linked, the GDPR would apply to such datasets. Moreover, any policy that seeks to govern the free flow of NPD ought to make it clear that in case of re-identification of anonymised data, such re-identified data would be considered personal data. The DPB, 2021 and the NGDF, both fail to take into account this difference.

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