The activists made the remarks at a press conference organised by Moulik Odhikar Shurokkha Committee (Committee for the Protection of Fundamental Rights) at Dhaka Reporters Unity auditorium yesterday morning.
The draft was approved by the cabinet on August 22 and later sent to the Law Ministry for scrutiny. In 2015, it was first named as Cyber Security Act, but later renamed to Digital Security Act 2016.
Eminent jurist Shahdeen Malik, who chaired the event, said there is no doubt that a law is required to control cyber crimes, “but the Digital Security Act, if enacted, will not benefit anyone as 90% of the text is unacceptable.”
The draft was written in such a way that it could never be amended to make it usable, he said, adding that there were many loopholes in the draft while the text did not specify the offences clearly.
Shahdeen alleged that the proposed law would encourage corruption in the name of curbing criminal activities and create scopes for pro-government lawyers and bureaucrats. “Nobody is thinking about the citizens,” he said, adding that citizens’ rights had been curbed in the recently enacted laws.
Dhaka University law teacher Prof Mahbubur Rahman observed that the main drawback of the draft was its unclear language which would allow the government to misuse the law.
“Moreover, the digital security agency to be established under the Act is likely to be controlled by the government,” he added.
Tahmina Rahman, director of Article 19 Bangladesh and South Asia, mentioned that cyber crimes are internationally considered as civil offence, rather than criminal offence. “So, the draft should be revised to imply proper punishment in accordance with the global practice.”
Supreme Court lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua criticised the proposed law for not having any bail provision.
“Section 37 of the draft says even the judge concerned realises that the accused may not be involved in the crime, s/he cannot grant the accused bail. The independence of the judiciary has been curbed through this provision,” he said.
“... While the offences are covered under the ICT Act 2013 (amendment) and the Penal Code, why do we need a subsidiary one [Digital Security Act]?” the lawyer questioned.