The much-talked-about 'The Digital Security Bill, 2018' was passed in Parliament on Wednesday to deal 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.
Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister Mustafa Jabbar moved the Bill and it was passed by voice vote.
Taking part in the discussion, Jatiya Party MP Fakhrul Imam said in the Bill, the concern of media people was not addressed and their opinions were ignored, which will push them into risk while performing their duties.
On the other hand, the inclusion of British regime Official Secrets Act is regretful and frustrating, he said.
Fakhrul said its inclusion will hamper investigative journalism and research. “Once enacted, the law will be a blow to the main spirit of the Constitution, especially the freedom of speech and freedom of press. The digital security will create insecurity for the country’s citizens,” he said.
He along with some other opposition MPs, including Rawshan Ara Mannan, Shamim Haider Patwari, Mohammad Noman and Selim Uddin, proposed eliciting public opinions for the Bill, but it was rejected later.
Mustafa Jabbar said since 2015, his ministry had been trying to address the concerns of all sectors.
He said if anyone goes through the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee concerned, he/she will see how much it was discussed with journalists. “In all steps, we attached highest importance to the opinions of journalists. We’ve brought necessary changes as per their opinions,” he said.
The minister said the law will open the door for ensuring freedom of speech and thoughts.
Regarding the inclusion of the Official Secrets Act in the Bill, he said there is no instance about any punishment under this law.
“This law is not for suppressing the newspapers or controlling the newspaper industry,” Mustafa Jabbar said.
He categorically said the law will be applicable only for containing digital offences.
Mentioning that the future war will be a digital war, the minister said the country has to be secure in that war. “If we don’t secure our country, we’ll be held responsible,” he added.
He described the law as a historical one for the country. “Many developed countries are regularly enquiring about the progress of the law. This law has to be followed by many countries across the globe. Because there’s no law for the digital security,” he said.
Citing the digital security law of Singapore, the minister said, “Anyone will find that we’ve made our law as heaven and that (Singapore law) will seem to be a jail.”
He, however, accepted an amendment proposed by Fakhrul Imam for the section 43.
The Bill included the Official Secrets Act, 1923 where any offence will be committed under the law using computer, digital device, computer network, digital network or any other digital means.
The punishment for this offence 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 lifetime imprisonment or not more than Tk 1 crore fine or both.
Under section 21, the Bill included the definition of "spirit of Liberation War".
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 inclusion of the Right to Information Act (RTI) under section 3 in case of right to information-related matter.
The section 43 of the Bill says a police official can search or arrest anyone without any warrant issued by a court and police would carry out the job.
The jail term for spreading negative propaganda against the Liberation War or Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman using digital devices will be 10 years or Tk one crore fine or both, according to the Bill.
The proposed law made many crimes cognisable and nonbailable offences.
In the bill, digital, database and critical information infrastructure have been defined.
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.
If any person commits the offence for second time or more, the punishment will be lifetime imprisonment or fine Tk 3 crore or both.
The punishment for illegal access to critical information infrastructure (CII) is maximum seven-year of imprisonment or Tk 25 lakh fine or both, while that for damaging the CII through illegal access is maximum 14 years' imprisonment, or Tk 1 crore fine or both.
If the offence is committed by the same person for second time or more, the punishment will be lifetime imprisonment or Tk 2.5 crore fine or both.
The punishment for resorting to cyber violence which will jeopardise integrity or security or sovereignty of the state, intimidate people or any section of people, impede legitimised access to 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 bank, insurance, financial institution 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.
Resorting to digital theft by capturing any confidential information of government and semi-government, autonomous and statuary bodies by using computer, computer network, digital network or any other electronic devices through illegal access is a cognisable offence.
The offences under sections 17, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32, 33 and 34 of the proposed law are cognisable and non-bailable, while the offences under sections 20, 25, 29 and 48 are bailable ones.