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Talks at National University of Juridical Sciences Today

by Admin — last modified Sep 20, 2019 02:45 PM
Arindrajit Basu delivered two lectures at the National University of Juridical Sciences on September 18, 2019.

The first one was part of a symposium being conducted by the soon to be set up Intellectual Property and Technology Law Centre. I spoke on "Conceptualising India's Digital Policy Vision" The other speaker today was  Mr. Supratim Chakraborty (Partner, Khaitan&Co.) Tomorrow's speakers are Prof. Mahendra Kumar Bhandan and Nikhil Narendran (Partner, Trilegal)


The past year has  seen vigorous activity on the domestic  data governance policy front in India. Across key issues including intermediary liability, data localisation and e-commerce, the government has rolled out a patchwork of regulatory policies that has resulted in battle lines being drawn by governments, industry and civil society actors both in India and across the globe. The Data Protection Bill is set to be tabled in the next session of Parliament amidst supposed disagreement among policy-makers on key provisions, including data localization. The draft e-commerce policy and Chapter 4 of the  Economic Survey refer to the concepts of ‘community data’ and ‘data as public  good’ respectively. Artifiicial Intelligence is also the new buzz word among policy-making circles and industry players alike.

The implementation of each of these concepts have important implications for individual privacy, the monetisation of data by (foreign tech companies) and the harnessing of-as the e-commerce policy puts it-India’s data for India’s development. Meanwhile, at international forums such as the G20, India has partnered up with its BRICS allies to emphasize the notion of ‘data sovereignty’ or the right of each country to govern data within its jurisdiction without external interference.
In his talk, Basu unpacked each of these policies and followed up with a discussion on what these developments meant for Indian citizens and for India’s role in the multilateral global order.

The second one was on 'Constitutionalizing Artificial Intelligence' conducted by the Constitutional Law Society. Here, I drew from some preliminary findings from a paper I am working on with Elonnai and Amber.


The use of big data and algorithmic decision-making  has been touted world over as a means of augmenting human capacities, removing bureaucratic fetters and benefiting society. Yet, with concerns arising around bias, fairness and a lack of algorithmic accountability, an entirely new domain of discourse on data justice has emerged - underscoring the idea that algorithms not only have the potential to exacerbate entrenched structural inequality but could also create and modulate new forms of injustice for the vulnerable sections of society.

There is a need for a reflexive turn in the debate on data justice that adequately considers the broader narrative and entrenched inequality in the ecosystem. Transformative constitutionalism is a new brand of scholarship in comparative constitutional law which celebrates the crucial role of the state and the judiciary in bringing about emancipatory change and rooting out structural inequality.

Originally conceptualized as a Global South concept designed as a counter-model to the individual rights-driven model of Northern Constitutions, scholars have now identified emancipatory provisions in several western constitutions such as Germany. India’s constitution is one such example. The origins of constitutional order in India were designed to “bring the alien and powerful machine like that of the state under the control of human will” and to eliminate the inequality of “status, facilities and opportunities.” 

What is the relevance of India's constitutional ethos in the regulation of modern day data driven decision-making? How can policy-makers use constitutional tenets to mitigate structural injustice and transform the bearings of 21st century Indian society?