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Digital Security Bill passed with stringent penal sections
Digital Security - File image

Digital Security Bill passed with stringent penal sections

Dhaka, Sept 19 –  Bangladesh Parliament on Wednesday passed the much-talked-about Digital Security Bill 2018 amid concerns of journalists, human rights activists and organizations over freedom of press and freedom of expression. The bill aiming at dealing with cybercrimes, including hurting the religious sentiment, negative propaganda against the Liberation War and Bangabandhu, and illegal activities in e-transactions and spreading defamatory data has been passed in amended form.
The Parliament passed the bill by voice vote as Minister for Telecom and ICT Minister Mustafa Jabbar tabled it before the House chaired by Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury.
The punishment for this offence for cybercrimes will be not more than 14 years of imprisonment or not more than Tk 25 lakh as fine or both.
If a person commits the same offence for more than once, the punishment will be life imprisonment or not more than Tk 1 crore fine or both. Section 21 of the Bill includes the definition of “spirit of Liberation War”.
The Bill included the Official Secrets Act, 1923 where any offence will be committed under the law using a computer, digital device, computer network, digital network or any other digital means.
The definition of the spirit of the Liberation War as proposed by the committee is: “The high ideals of nationalism, socialism, democracy and secularism, which inspired our heroic people to dedicate themselves to, and our brave martyrs to sacrifice their lives in the national liberation struggle.”
The proposed law made the inclusion of the Right to Information Act (RTI) under section 3 in case of the right to information-related matter.
Section 43 that the Bill says a police officer can search or arrest anyone without any warrant issued by a court and police would carry out the job.
As per the bill, digital forensic labs, and a digital security agency under the Prime Minister’s Office will be set up, while a national computer emergency response team and an 11-member digital security council, headed by the Prime Minister, will be constituted.
The punishment for resorting to cyber violence which will jeopardize integrity or security or sovereignty of the state, intimidate people or any section of people, impede legitimised access to a computer, computer network or internet is maximum 14 years’ imprisonment or maximum Tk 1 crore fine or both.
The punishment for hurting religious values and sentiment is maximum 10-year imprisonment, or Tk 20 lakh fine or both.
The punishment for providing or spreading defamatory data is maximum three-year jail or maximum Tk 500,000 fine or both, while that for destroying communal harmony is maximum seven years’ imprisonment, Tk 500,000 fine or both.
The punishment for illegal activities using e-transaction services of banks, insurance, financial institutions and any other organisation is maximum five years’ imprisonment, Tk 500,000 fine or both.
The punishment for resorting to cyber hacking is maximum 14 years imprisonment and Tk one crore fine, or both.
According to section 32 of the bill, resorting to digital theft by capturing any confidential information of government and semi-government, autonomous and statuary bodies by using a computer, computer network, digital network or any other electronic devices through illegal access is a cognisable offence.
The parliament rejected by voice vote the proposals of opposition and independent lawmakers to elicit public opinion on the bills by October 30 and sending it to the respecting standing committee for further scrutiny.
The lawmakers those who placed the proposals are Jatiya Party lawmakers–Nurul Islam Omar, Selim Uddin, Mohammed Abdul Munim Chowdhury, Md Fakhrul Imam, Nurul Islam Milon, Begum Noor-e-Hasna Lily Chowdhury, Begum Mahjabin Morshed, Kazi Firoz Rashid, Begum Rawshan Ara Mannan, Shamim Haider Patwari, Mohammed Noman and independent lawmaker Dr Rustom Ali Farazi.
The opposition lawmakers also placed amendments to 13 different sections of the bill but the proposals, except an amendment proposal raised by JP lawmaker Fakhrul Imam, have also been rejected by voice vote. Imam’s amendment proposal in section 43 to drop the words for taking approval of the director general has been accepted.
Speaking on amendments, JP lawmaker Fakhrul Imam alleged that the opinion of the stakeholders of the bill, especially the concern of the media people has been ignored. He said the bill would thwart the freedom of expression and pose insecurity for the media persons and free-thinking people. They will not be able to discharge their responsibility independently, he added.
They said the sections 21, 25, 28, 31, 32 and 43 would create obstacles for journalists to discharge their duties independently.
Shamim Haider Patwari said it would deepen the fear of section 57 of the ICT act and the parts of the section have widely been put in different sections of the digital security bill.
He said since the media is treated as the fourth pillar of the state the bill will make the media people more annoyed thus it would not be wise to pass the bill ahead of the next elections.
Mohammed Noman put emphasis on the need to eliminate the sources of digital crimes instead of thwarting the freedom of expression. He also questioned as to how the rights and freedom of expression would be controlled. He also opposed giving power to the director general of
Security Council.
In his reply, the Minister for Telecom and ICT Minister Mustafa Jabbar said that the country is going ahead with development in the digital sector and digital crimes are also increasing along with it. Thus, enacting a law to check the digital crime is very important to protect the security of the state.
Earlier on Tuesday, the parliamentary standing committee on the Ministry of Telecom and ICT submitted its report on the much-debated Digital Security Bill, ignoring concerns of journalists and media owners over some of its sections.
In the report, the parliamentary standing committee on posts, telecommunications and information technology ministry, however, recommended some minor changes to the bill. One of them is to include the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2009.
At a meeting on Sunday, Sampadak Parishad, a platform of the editors of the country’s dailies, expressed its surprise, disappointment and shock at the committee’s final report on the proposed Digital Security Act-2018.
In a statement, the Council said they were “forced to reject the report” as it suggested no fundamental changes to sections 8, 21, 25, 28, 29, 31, 32, and 43 of the draft act that poses serious threats to freedom of expression and media operation.
On April 9, the Minister for Telecom and ICT Minister placed the digital security bill in parliament aiming at ensuring the country’s security from digital crimes and ensure the security of people’s lives and assets. – Staff Reporter