ISLAMABAD: After approval by the Senate, The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill, 2016 also sailed through the National Assembly (NA) on Thursday amid protest from the opposition parties which termed the legislation as restriction on freedom of expression and against the spirit of Constitution and democracy.
The bill moved by the Minister of State for Information Technology Anusha Rehman Khan would not apply on the electronic and print media. “The legislation is being opposed under a so-called agenda of NGOs who do not want cyber crimes related laws in the country,” the minister said.
The cyber crimes bill, passed by two houses of parliament, would become an Act of the Parliament once signed by President Mamnoon Hussain.
The opposition members also objected that minors of age above 10 are also being covered as criminals under the legislation. “It shall apply to every citizen of Pakistan … and also to every person for the time being in Pakistan,” the Clause 1 of the bill said.
It shall also apply to any act committed outside Pakistan by any person if their acts constitute an offence under this Act and affect a person, property, information system or data located in Pakistan
The legislation covers glorification of an offence, cyber terrorism, hate speech, child pornography, and offences against dignity of a natural person and against modesty of natural person and minor and 16 other offences.
All the offences under this legislation except cyber terrorism, offences against modesty of a natural person and child pornography would be bailable, non-cognizable and compoundable.
The maximum punishment for cyber terrorism which include creating sense of fear, advancement of inter-faith, sectarian or ethnic and hatred or advancement of objectives of organizations, groups or an individual proscribed under the law, shall extend to 14-year imprisonment of fine upto Rs50 million or both.
Other offences include unauthorised use of identity information, unauthorised issuance of SIM cards, unauthorised interception, tampering of communication equipment, malicious code, spamming and spoofing.
The offences including glorification of offences, child pornography, modesty of natural person and minor, cyber stalking, hate speech, electronic fraud and interference with critical infrastructure system or data would be punishable with up to seven-year imprisonment or specified fine or both.
The cyber stalking offences cover taking a photograph or making video of any person and display or distribute it without his consent in a manner that harms a person and follow a person or contacts or attempts to contact such person to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite clear indication of disinterest by such person.
Under the law, the federal government may establish or designate a law enforcing agency as the investigation agency for the purpose of investigation of offences.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) shall have the powers to remove or block or issue directions for removal or blocking of access to information through any information system if it considers it necessary in the interest of the glory of Islam, integrity, security or defence of Pakistan, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court.
Any person aggrieved by any order passed by the PTA may file an application with the Authority for review of the order within 30 days.
The opposition members including Imran Zafar Leghari, Dr Shireen Mazari, Sahibzada Muhammad Yaqoob and others while opposing the legislation said such legislation was not moved even during the era of dictators. They said they were ready to support the bill with some improvement fearing in the present shape, it would be challenged in the court.
Anusha Rehman said those opposing the bill have solid reasons to do so as, she said, the bill from the NA was sent to the Senate which passed it with amendments. She mentioned that the opposition parties are in majority in Upper House of the Parliament.
She said for the first time, the cyber crimes law was introduced during the era of Pervez Musharraf in 2007 and later it was brought by the PPP government as an ordinance in 2008. “At that time I raised my voice against it calling it a draconian law and then it was not passed,” she said.
Anusha Rehman said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced to make the bill with various improvements a part of the National Action Plan and she was assigned the task to draft it.
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