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Move to amend DSA to check misuse

Published : 21 Jan 2022 11:00 PM

The government has taken a move to amend the ‘Digital Security Act, 2018’ in order to check its misuse and abuse.

Law Minister Anisul Huq has said that the government will amend the Digital Security Act (DSA) if it is necessary to implement the law properly. 

Admitting misuse of the DSA, he said, “We will fix the best practices with the UN human rights office over the world’s finest practices as well as accept the necessary provisions for the country by adopting a rule in order to prevent misuse and abuse of the DSA. If needed, the law will be amended slightly.” 

The deputy commissioners (DCs) in their annual conference on Thursday were informed by the minister about the government’s move and were asked to check misuse of the law.

“We have asked the DCs to check the misuse of the DSA and ensure its proper application,” said Anisul Huq.

The minister said that the law enforcement agencies were also asked not to arrest any journalist immediately after the filing of a DSA case against them. “The law was not framed to gouge the freedom of speech or the freedom of the press. The law was enacted actually to deal with cybercrimes. We have talked to the home minister so that the DSA case is not considered as a case immediately after it is filed,” he said.

Anisul Huq said that they discussed with the UN human rights office two times over the DSA. “The office was also informed that the government is ready to discuss it and asked it to fix the date soon for the discussion. A six-member committee, headed by the legislative secretary, was formed in this regard. Representatives from the home ministry, the foreign ministry and the ICT ministry were also included in the committee,” he added. 

Earlier in 2020, the High Court had issued a rule asking the government to explain why two controversial sections of the Digital Security Act, 2018--Sections 25 and 31—should not be declared unconstitutional. 

According to section 25 (1) of the law, “If any person using a website or any digital device- (a) deliberately or knowingly distributes any information or data that is attacking or intimidating in nature; or if a person publishes or distributes any information despite knowing that it is false to irritate, humiliate, defame or embarrass or to discredit a person

(b) Damages the image and reputation of the state or spreads confusion or with the same purpose publishes or distributes fully or partially distorted information or data despite knowing that it is false, and if anyone assists in such actions then all such actions of the individual will be considered a crime.”

Section 31 says, “If a person deliberately publishes or broadcasts via a website or any digital platform anything that creates enmity, hatred or acrimony among different classes or communities, or upsets communal harmony, or creates unrest or chaos, or causes or begins to cause deterioration in law and order, then that activity of the said person will be considered a crime.”

The Centre for Governance Studies in October 2021 stated that the widespread use of the Digital Security Act, 2018 in the past three years drew condemnation from human rights organisations both at home and abroad.

The total number of cases reaching the Dhaka Cyber Tribunal since 2013 initially under the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act and, later, under the DSA stands at 4,657, according to the centre. Of the cases, 925 were filed in 2018, while 1,189 in 2019 and 1,128 in 2020.