The name of the controversial Digital Security Act is being dropped and a decision has been taken for new ‘Cyber Security Act’ to be enacted, with certain significant changes.
Law minister Anisul Huq said that just as the punishments in the proposed new law have been lessened, many non-bailable sections have been made bailable.
In the case of defamation, the prison sentence has been dropped and only provision for fines has been kept. Arrests are not made for defamation cases.
This decision was taken today, Monday, at the cabinet meeting. Later the law minister, speaking to the media at his office in the secretariat, gave details about the contents of the proposed law, changes of the Digital Security Act, when the new law will be placed in parliament and other details. The law minister, however, did not say that the Digital Security Act was being abolished, but said it has been changed.
The law minister said, in case of failure to pay fines, a maximum six-month prison sentence will be imposed. But the actual penalty is the fine.
Many sections that were non-bailable in the Digital Security Act have been made bailable in the proposed , the minister said.
He also said that many of the penalties for various crimes have been lessened. For example, Section 21 of the Digital Security Act has provision for being sentenced for propagating any sort of propaganda against the liberation war, the spirit of the liberation war, the national anthem or the national flag. If anyone is guilty of such an offence, he will be sentenced to a maximum 10 years or a maximum Tk 10 million fine or both.
The law minister said this has been relaxed to 7 years. Also, in many sections, the punished was doubled or extended in the case of the second time an offence was committed. In the proposed law, each section where the extended punished has been mentioned, has been dropped.
There is much controversy over Section 28 of the Digital Security Act which states that if any person or group made publication, broadcast, etc. of information on the website or in any electronic format that hurts the religious values or sentiment, with an intention to hurt or provoke the religious values or sentiments, then such act of the person shall be an offence.
Anyone committing this offence will be sentenced to maximum 5 years or maximum fine of Tk 1 million or both. The second time such an offence is committed, the punishment will be higher.
In the proposed law, this has been changed and made bailable (it was previously non-bailable) and the sentence has been lessened. The maximum sentence in this case is 2 years.
Section 31 of the Digital Security Act has also been amended in the proposed law. This section states that if any person intentionally publishes or transmits anything in website or digital layout that creates enmity, hatred or hostility among different classes or communities of the society, or destroys communal harmony, or creates unrest or disorder or deteriorates or advances to deteriorate the law and order situation, then such act of the person shall be an offence and he will be given a prison sentence not exceeding 7 years or a fine no exceeding Tk 500,000 or both.
In the proposed law, the sentence has been lowered to 5 years. The provision for higher punishment in case of a second offence, has been cancelled.
Digital Security Act Section 32 about the offence and punishment for breaching secrecy of the Government states that if any person commits or abets to commit an offence under the Official Secrets Act by means of computer, digital device, computer network, digital network or any other digital means, he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years, or with fine not exceeding Tk 2.5 million, or with both.
This section has provision for sentence not exceeding 14 years in the case of hacking or a fine not exceeding Tk 10 million or both.
The law minister, in reply to a question, said there is no separate provision for the media in the proposed law. He said that the ongoing case will continue under the Cyber Security Act.
When asked when the new law will come into effect, the law minister said, I have already said that the next session of parliament will be in September and the bill will be tabled then. He hoped that the law would be passed in that session too. And then the ongoing cases would be placed under the Cyber Security Act.
The law minister said that no changes have been made in the law concerning the technical matters related to cybercrimes.
When asked if there were any controversial sections in the new law and if these would be amended later, the minister replied that there will be no controversy over the new law and he felt there will be no need for any amendments.