The Senate on Friday unanimously passed the controversial Prevention of Electronics Crimes Bill 2016 with around 50 amendments proposed to the original draft law.
The bill was unanimously adopted by the Senate Standing Committee on IT and Telecommunications earlier this week after being passed by the National Assembly with simple majority in April this year.
After the proposed amendments, the bill will now go back to the National Assembly where lawmakers will discuss the amendments.
The bill has been criticized by the civil society members and rights groups for putting curbs on freedom of expression.
Speaking after the passage of the bill, Leader of the Opposition Senator Aitzaz Ahsan said senators had proposed better amendments to the bill, adding that a section was incorporated for parliamentary oversight over the bill besides strengthening of judiciary oversight.
He said around 50 amendments were proposed to the bill passed by the National Assembly. However, he said there was room for improvement.
14-year jail, Rs 5m fine for cyber terrorism
The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2016 envisages a 14-year imprisonment and Rs5 million for cyber terrorism, and seven-year imprisonment each for campaigning against innocent people on the internet, spreading hate material on the basis of ethnicity, religion and sect or taking part in child pornography, which can also entail a Rs500,000 fine.
A special court will be formed for investigation into cyber crimes in consultation with the high court.
The law will also apply to expatriates and electronic gadgets will be accepted as evidence in a special court.
The bill will criminalise cyber-terrorism with punishment of up to 14 years in prison and Rs5 million in penalties.
Similarly, child pornography will carry sentences of up to seven years in jail and Rs5 million, with the crimes being non-bailable offences.
The bill also aims to criminalise terrorism on the internet, or raising of funds for terrorist acts online, with sentences of up to seven years in prison.
Under the law, terrorism, electronic fraud, exaggeration of forgery, crimes, hate speeches, pornographic materials about children, illegal access of data (hacking) as well as interference with data and information system (DOS and DDOS attacks) specialised cyber-related electronic forgery and electronic fraud etc would be punishable acts.
It will also apply on the people who are engaged in anti-state activities online from their safe havens in other countries. Illegal use of internet data will cost three-year jail terms and Rs1 million fine. The same penalties are proposed for tampering with mobile phones.
Data of internet providers will not be shared without court orders. The cyber crime law will not be applied on the print and electronic media. Foreign countries will be accessed to arrest those engaged in anti-state activities from there.
Some of the amendments are as under;
After sub-section 4 a new sub-section shall be inserted as under:
(5) An appeal against the decision of the Authority in review shall lie before the High Court with in 30 days of the order of the Authority in review.
The following clause shall be inserted as under:
49-A The agency designated or established under section 26 of the Act shall submit a half yearly report to both houses of the Parliament for consideration by the relevant committee in camera, in respect of its activities, without disclosing identity information, in a manner as prescribed under this Act.
Clause 2- Definitions
In sub-clause j, in the proviso after the words, “infrastructure “ in accordance with the objectives of (i) and (ii) above, “ shall be inserted.
In clause 10 sub-clause (b) the words “shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 14 years or that fine which may be extended to 50 million rupees or with both” shall be omitted.
In clause 10 sub-clause (c) after the words “under the law” the full-stop shall be deleted and the words” shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 14 years or that fine which may be extended to 50 million rupees or with both” shall be inserted.
In clause 10—A for the word “ethnic” the word “racial” shall be substituted.
In sub-clause (1), clause (c) after the words “explicit conduct” the word “or” shall be inserted and a new clause “(d) discloses the identity of the minor” shall be inserted.
In sub-clause 2, the word “one year” shall be substituted with the word “three years”.
In sub-section (3) after the words “with fine” the words “of rupees fifty thousand which may extend up to rupees five million” shall be inserted.
The law envisages 14-year imprisonment and a Rs 5million fine for cyber terrorism, seven-year imprisonment each for campaigning against innocent people on the internet, spreading hate material on the basis of ethnicity, religion, and sect, or taking part in child pornography.