Law Minister Anisul Huq on Sunday said that the Digital Security Act 2017 would be finalised by August.
“We met with several concerned parties today [Sunday] about the Digital Security Act, to come to a decision on the infamous Section 57 of the ICT Act,” he told journalists after an inter-ministry meeting held on Sunday at the Law Ministry.
The minister also said: “We have ordered investigation agencies to inspect cases filed under Section 57 to avoid harassing the accused in the cases.”
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State minister for ICT Junaid Ahmed Palok, State Minister for Posts and Telecommunications Tarana Halim and others were present at the meeting.
The minister's comments address the severe criticism aimed at the ICT Act's Section 57, which stipulates that any post, image, or video on an electronic format that “causes to deteriorate law and order, prejudice the image of the state or person or hurt religious beliefs” are non-bailable offences. The punishment is a minimum seven years in prison up to a maximum of 14 years. The fines can go up to Tk1cr.
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Section 57 immediately faced criticism from several groups, notably the Moulik Odhikar Shurokkha Committee (Committee for the Protection of Fundamental Rights). The act has been called draconian in its implementation and criticised for how it can be interpreted by law enforcement agencies. Numerous journalists and students and teachers have been imprisoned under Section 57, which incited further outcry from numerous civic leaders and journalists.
The law was introduced in 2006 by the BNP government and established in 2013 by Awami League. In 2015, it was first named as Cyber Security Act, but later renamed to Digital Security Act 2016. The draft was approved by the cabinet on August 22, 2016 and later sent to the Law Ministry for scrutiny.
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Taking note of the intense criticism against the act, Anisul Huq assured journalists that the Act was being reworked on December 10, 2016. On May 2, 2017, he told journalists that Section 57 was being scrapped entirely, and that a new law was in the works.