Cyber Crimes bill smoothly sails through Senate

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ISLAMABAD: July 29 (APP): The Senate on Friday passed the Prevention of Electronics Crimes Bill, unanimously with certain amendments, envisages 14-year imprisonment, Rs 5 million 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.

State Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Anusha Rahman piloted the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill-2016 in the House as reported by the standing committee.

The members including Shibili Faraz, Usman Khan Kakar, Daud Achakzai, Aitzaz Ahsan, Siraj ul Haq and others proposed amendments to the bill which were incorporated in the bill.

Speaking on the occasion, the Minister said, the bill was need of the hour as there was no comprehensive law related to prevention of electronics crimes in the country.

She said the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was receiving a number of complaints about cyber crimes but having no such law in the country no action could be taken against such people.

She said there were reservations of some people and organizations about the bill but certain amendments had been made in it after consultation with all the political parties so that no innocent person could be given punishment under the law.

The Minister said that after listening to all the stakeholders and recommendations of the Standing Committee had been included in the bill. She added that special courts would be set up to listen to such cases, however, she added that except for terrorism related and taking part in child pornography crimes, no other person could be arrested without court’s orders.

Chairman of the Standing Committee on Information and Telecommunication Shahi Syed said it was a very important bill and, in the past, efforts were made to bring a bill in this regard but it could not materialize.

He said after listening to all the stakeholders including the media, the bill had come to the House with consensus. He appreciated the Ministry for extending its full support in incorporating suggestions given by various stakeholders and members of the Committee.

Leader of the Opposition Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan said that the bill was being presented in the House after hectic efforts of the senators. He said around 50 amendments were proposed to the bill passed by the National Assembly.

However, he said there was always a room for improvement. He said efforts were made to make the bill State and citizen friendly.

Aitzaz said senators proposed better amendments to the bill adding that section was incorporated for parliamentary oversight over the bill besides strengthening of judiciary oversight.

Aitzaz sought unconditional apology to MQM parliamentary leader Col. (Retd) Tahir Hussain Mashhadi for not consulting them and requested them to support the bill rather than abstaining to vote for the bill.

Under the proposed law with certain amendment from the Senate, 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) specialized cyber related electronic forgery and electronic fraud etc will be punishable acts.

The bill 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 and Rs 1 million fine. The same penalties are proposed for tampering with mobile phones.

Under the bill, a special court in the consultation with High Court will be established for hearing the cases. The law will also apply to expatriate and electronic gadgets will be accepted as evidence in a special court. With the permission of the court, the government will be able to seek help of other countries for investigation into cyber crimes.

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.

The IT companies registered with Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) will be dealt with under PTA act. Under this act, imprisonment of up to seven years can be awarded for funding terrorism or terrorist organisation through internet. Under the bill, cyber-terrorism will be punishable upto to 14 years in prison and Rs 5 million fine.

Child pornography will be non-bail-able offence besides seven years in jail and Rs 5 million fine.

Amendments were also made in Section-15 of the Bill relating to “Unauthorized Issuance of SIM Cards etc”.

Whoever sells or otherwise provides Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card, re-usable identification module (R-IUM) or Universal Integrated Circuit Card (UICC) or other module designed for authenticating users to establish connection with the network and to be used in cellular mobile, wireless phone or other digital devices such as tablets (words in bold are added). However, the portion stating, “And other portable memory chip designed to be used in cellular mobile or wireless phone for transmitting information” has been removed.

Children under the age of 10 years have been given immunity and the proposed legislation will not be applicable to them.

The statement of objects and reasons of the bills says that currently Pakistan has no law to comprehensively deal with the growing threat of cyber-crimes. The centuries old criminal justice legal framework is inadequate and ill equipped to address the sophisticated online threats of the 21st century cyber age. This new age has exacerbated both the existing crimes when conducted with the use of internet.

It has also given birth to completely new types of cyber-crime and criminals which cannot be effectively dealt with through the use of existing legislation.

The legislation establishes new offences including illegal access of data (hacking), as well as interference with data and information systems, electronic fraud, cyber terrorism, use of malicious code viruses, identity theft etc. The bill will effectively prevent cyber crimes and shall also contribute to the national security of the nation.