The Digital Security Act must be given time before any conclusive judgment is made
The era of digitization, be it in the form of computers, smartphones, smart TVs, or any other modern electronic devices, is upon us.
While there is little doubt that such conveniences make our lives easier, comfortable, more accessible, we must bear in mind that technology can be both a blessing or a curse if misused or not properly monitored.
In addition to bringing the world into the palm of our hands, technology has also made us victims to potential threats of being misused, misguided, and being harassed in a multitude of ways.
To combat such emerging issues, the new Digital Security Act 2018, enacted just over a month ago, has come to the rescue to try and save us from becoming pawns to reprisals and give us a leeway to enjoy the digital era with ease of mind.
At the same time, however, there are serious concerns (perhaps, justifiably so) about whether it crosses the lines and culls freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
Looking over the act more closely, we find that it has been several components.
It talks about a digital security agency which would have powers and responsibilities to implement an emergency response team -- one which would specialize in digital safety, and take necessary initiatives to prevent possible and upcoming cyber or digital attacks.
There is also provisions for a digital security council, which would provide instructions and advice to the agency for the correct implementation of the act.
When an individual is using someone else’s personal information without his or her consent, when someone is committing a cybercrime, when someone’s personal data is hacked, when digital media is being used to foment pubic disorder, the act would come into play, making the way for adjusted punishments and fines as per the offense defined.
Furthermore, there are penalties for illegally accessing someone else’s computers and digital devices; crimes related to changing computer source code; a penalty for propaganda against the Liberation War, the national anthem, or the national flag; for identity fraud; for spreading offensive, false, or inciting information, for cyber terror attacks; and for demeaning religious values.
More than 20 provisions of the new law deals with offenses and punishments, out of which 13 are non-bailable. Only five are bailable, and the highest punishment is life imprisonment, with the lowest punishment being one year in prison, but generally sentenced in the array of between four and seven years.
Under the act, there would be a police officer who is the investigating officer-in-charge, who would complete the investigation with 60 days of the receipt of complain, and the period may be extended to 15 days. There are provisions where deadlines may be extended to a reasonable time limit.
This act has also give power to search, seize, and arrest without prior warrants being issued. This, I believe, will come in handy when a crime is being committed, and so the offender may be caught red-handed.
The act has only recently been passed, which, of course, was also built on previous acts of similar nature, and there has been much talk about what is fair and what isn’t.
However, it needs time to grow, and perhaps more rules will be made or amended, given future circumstances and conditions.
The sections have enough room for interpretation, and they do need to be more specific to give actual effect to the implementation of the law in order to fulfill what they demand, and address the needs of the people -- this will surely help this act overcome all boundaries and criticism, and be embraced by everybody in the country..
Sabrina Zarin is a Partner in FM Associates, and an advocate of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh.