A parliamentary standing committee decided on Sunday to hold talks with stakeholders to make the proposed Digital Security Bill time-befitting.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the committee on the telecommunications and ICT ministry at parliament secretariat with its chairman Imran Ahmed in the chair.
Members of the committee discussed the bill elaborately and brought some corrections in some of the provisions, meeting sources said.
Committee members, including ICT minister Mustafa Jabbar, state minister Junaid Ahmed Palak, Moazzem Hossain Ratan, Shawkat Hasanur Rahman and Hosne Ara Lutfa, attended the meeting with committee chairman Tajul Islam in the chair.
Law minister Anisul Huq also attended the meeting on a special invitation.
On April 9, the government placed the much-talked-about Digital Security Bill 2018 before the House aimed at ensuring digital security, combating digital crimes and punishing offenders.
Editors’ Council expressed concern over some sections of the proposed Digital Security Act during a recent meeting with law minister Anisul Huq, minister Mostafa Jabbar and state minister Junaid Ahmed Palak.
Different quarters, including Newspapers Owners’ Association of Bangladesh, journalists, rights activists and ambassadors of different countries, expressed deep concern over the proposed law for the inclusion of the controversial Section-57 of the ICT Act and some strict provisions in the Digital Security Bill.
They demanded that the Digital security Bill should be finalised following discussions among all stakeholders.
The government repeatedly said section 57 of the ICT Act will be removed that deals with defamation, hurting religious sentiments, causing deterioration of law and order and instigating against any person or organisation through publishing or transmitting any material on websites or in electronic form. It stipulates maximum 14 years in prison for the offences.
The Digital Security Bill-2018 splits these offences into four separate sections (21, 25, 28 and 29) with punishment ranging from three to 10 years' imprisonment.
Amid growing concern, several ministers asked journalists not to be worried about the Digital Security Bill, and said that all stakeholders will be consulted before getting it passed.
The cabinet on January 29 approved the draft Act.
Section 21 of the proposed law says anyone spreading negative propaganda against the Liberation War or the Father of the Nation, using digital devices or instigates to do so, will be sentenced up to 14 years in jail or a fine of up to Tk 1 crore or both.
He or she will face up to life sentence or Tk 3 crore fine or both for committing the offence for the second time, it said.
Section 28 says a person may face up to seven years in jail or Tk 10 lakh fine or both if he or she deliberately publishes or broadcasts something on website or in electronic form or get it done to hurt one's religious sentiment.
A person will face up to ten years in jail or Tk 20 lakh fine or both for committing the offence for the second time, it said.
Section 31 of the proposed law says a person may face up to seven years in jail or Tk 5 lakh fine or both if he or she is found to have deliberately published or broadcast something on websites or in electronic form which can spread hatred and create enmity among different groups and communities and can cause deterioration of law and order.
Punishment will be up to 10 years in jail or Tk 10 lakh fine or both for committing the offence for the second time, it said.
According to section 32 of the proposed law, a person may face up to 14 years in jail or Tk 25 lakh in fine or both on charges of computer spying or digital spying if he or she illegally enters the offices of government, semi-government, autonomous or statutory bodies and collect or preserve or send any top secret or secret documents through a computer, digital device, computer network, digital network or any electronic form and help others to do that.
He or she will face imprisonment of up to a life sentence or Tk 1 crore in fines or both for committing the crimes for a second time.
A person may face up to 14 years in jail or Tk 1 crore or both for hacking, section 34 of the bill says.
Section 17 says if anyone illegally enters any critical information infrastructure, he or she will face maximum seven years' imprisonment or Tk 25 lakh fine or both, and he or she may face up to 14 years in jail or Tk 1 crore in fine or both for doing any harm to the infrastructure.