The Cabinet on Monday approved the draft of the Digital Security Act 2018 repealing the ICT Act’s controversial Section 57, but the cases filed under this section will not be dismissed, say the Cabinet secretary and the inspector general of police (IGP).
According to Cabinet secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam, the courts will decide the fates of these cases once the new act is passed and in effect.
Responding to a query, after the regular Cabinet meeting on Monday, Shafiul told reporters: "The cases filed under Section 57 will continue. But the courts will have to consider that no law related to that exists. The courts’ judgments will be final.”
He also confirmed that Sections 54, 55, 56, 57 and 66 of the ICT Act have been revoked in the draft law.
In the past few years, online activists have been sued under Section 57 for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.
Asked how religious sentiment would be defined in the new act, the cabinet secretary said the Digital Security Act would follow the definition explained in the Penal Code.
According to the Cyber Security Tribunal prosecutor, at least 740 cases were filed under the ICT Act throughout the country till July 2017, and 60% of them are under Section 57.
Talking to reporters after an event at the Police Headquarters, IGP AKM Shahidul Haque on Monday afternoon also echoed the cabinet secretary’s remarks on the future of the Section 57 cases.
“These cases will not be dismissed. Their proceedings will continue,” he said.
He, however, declined to make further comments without reading the new act.
According to the proposed law, anyone spreading negative propaganda against the 1971 Liberation War or Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, using digital devices, will risk being sentenced.
If anyone illegally enters any critical information infrastructure, he or she will be sentenced to maximum seven years’ imprisonment or be fined by Tk25 lakh or both.
Parts of this article were first published on banglatribune.com