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Dhaka Tribune

Parliament passes Cyber Security Bill 2023

  • It will replace DSA
  • Provisions for punishment for filing a false case
Update : 14 Sep 2023, 09:31 AM

The Cyber Security Bill 2023 was passed in Parliament on Wednesday, keeping offences under four of its sections non-bailable.

It is proposed to replace the much-talked-about Digital Security Act, in which offences under 14 sections were non-bailable.

As per the Bill, officers of the rank of police inspector are empowered to search and arrest anyone without any warrant.

However, if a false case is filed, it is considered as a crime and provisions for punishment have been kept.

State Minister for ICT Division Zunaid Ahmed Palak moved the Bill, and it was passed by voice vote.

The four non-bailable offences are related to intrusion into key information infrastructures, damaging computers and computer systems, cyber terrorist activities, and hacking related crimes.

In the law, the offences under four sections are non-bailable.

The intrusion into important information infrastructures and others are in section-17, while damaging computers and computer systems are in section-19, cyber terrorist acts and committing such crimes are in section-27, and hacking related crimes are in section-33.

The already filed cases will run under the existing law- Digital Security Act as a provision was incorporated in the proposed law.

In the draft Cyber Security Act 2023, the offences and punishment provisions have been cited in sections 17-33.

Criticizing various clauses of the Bill, opposition party members said that freedom of thought and expression and recognition of independent media have been given in the constitution itself.

However, in various clauses of this Bill, the system of curtailing these rights recognized by the constitution has been ensured.

Several members demanded to amend the provisions of arrest and search without any warrant.

In response to these criticism, State Minister Palak said that freedom of thought and expression is recognized by the constitution, but it is not unlimited.

“Freedom does not mean violating the rights of others. Your freedom does not mean saying whatever you want. It’s not about disrespecting others,” he said.

He said that the opposition members are agreeing on the necessity of the law.

“There is no alternative to the Cyber Security Act to build a transparent, accountable and secure Smart Bangladesh.”

A new section has been added in the Bill on the offence and punishment for filing false cases and complaints.

This section provides that it shall be an offence if any person files or makes a suit or complaint under any section of this act with intent to cause injury to another person, without knowing just or lawful cause for filing the suit or complaint.

The person filing the suit or complaint in this offence and the person who filed the complaint shall be punished with the punishment prescribed for the original offence.

If any case or complaint is filed under more than one section of this act, the amount of penalty for the principal offence, which is higher among the offences mentioned in the respective section may be determined as the amount of penalty.

According to the bill, on the basis of a written complaint of a person, a tribunal can accept the complaint and try the case for the crime of filing a false case and complaint.

Section 42 of the bill empowers the police to search and arrest without warrant. In this section, sub-inspector-level officers have been replaced by inspector-level officers with the power to search and arrest without warrant. This clause was also in the Digital Security Act.

Section 8 of the bill provides power to remove and block data from digital media.

This section states that if law enforcement agencies "subject to data analysis, have reason to believe" that any data published or disseminated through digital or electronic media may affect the cohesion, economic activity, security, defence, religious, or economic activities of the country or any part of the country.

Law enforcement agencies may request the BTRC through the Director General to remove or block such data if it offends values or public order, or promotes racial hatred and hatred.

Gonoforum MP Mukabbir Khan said that this law is one of the most effective tools for suppressing dissent and free thought.

In the last 4 and a half years, it has only been used to suppress criticism about the government or the ruling party. He said that using the law journalists have been tortured the most. 

“Their freedom of expression has been severely curtailed by this law. This act empowers the police to enter homes and search bodies. It has given unlimited power to seize everything in any computer network, including servers. No other law has given the police so much power.”

Jatiya Party MP Fakhrul Imam said some changes have been made in the law. But journalists said they were not satisfied.

“Freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of press have been ensured in the constitution. Constitution is the basic law. Any law against freedom of speech would be unconstitutional.”

Jatiya Party MP Pir Fazlur Rahman said that the Digital Security Act was controversial for everyone. The Cyber Security Act is nothing but an amendment to it.

“This will also be a hindrance to free journalism and expression. Article 42 gives power to arrest without warrant. The Act requires ensuring special protection for journalists.”

He said that there was scope for control through the Press Council.

“Expression of opinion is a constitutional right. This law is creating barriers to freedom of expression and thought.”

He said that 27 percent of the cases under the Digital Security Act have been against journalists. In most areas, the plaintiffs are the leaders and workers of the ruling party.

Another Jatiya Party MP Shamim Haider Patwari said that this law is necessary for some technical matters. But in these cases, digital security law has been used very little.

The main case has been filed on allegations of injury to consciousness and feelings, he said.

He said that the constitution has given freedom of thought, press and speech.

“As they stand, these laws are unconstitutional. The Act kept the definition of the offence the same, with reduced sentences in some cases. This law will increase the self-censorship of the media.”

Jatiya Party MP Hafiz Uddin Ahmad said that he raised objections to Section 42 and proposed to remove all illegal sections including it.

Jatiya Party MP Mujibul Haque said that journalists write for the sake of the country.

“There was an opportunity to involve the Press Council in their affairs. Article 42 gives power to arrest anyone without warrant. There is a danger of misuse of this law.”

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