The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication approved the amendment of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2016 by the addition of the suggested paragraphs. The committee discussed the bill in detail.
National Assembly passed the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2016, and the Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani referred it to the committee for further studies. The Committee submitted the bill to the Senate Secretariat, and it is up to Senate to introduce the bill on the agenda. If the Senate approves the bill, it would be sent back to the National Assembly.
According to this law, the following acts will be punishable:
- Hate Speeches.
- Pornographic materials about children.
- Illegal access to data (hacking).
- Interference with data and information system.
- Specialized cyber-related electronic forgery.
- Electronic fraud.
- Illegal reproduction of the copyrighted content.
- Posting/sharing an image of a person on the web without his/her permission.
- The use of someone else’s SIM card.
- Using/selling stolen handheld digital devices including mobile phones, feature phones, smartphones, tablets, phablets.
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) opposes the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill
On the other hand, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), the Section 9, Section 10, Section 18, Section 19, Section 29, Section 32, and Section 34 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill are the most controversial parts of the bill.
The participants proposed alternative ways. They formulated them after careful thinking. On Section 9, which relates to ‘Glorification of an offense or hate speech,’ the participants recommended that the hate content should be removed instead of criminalizing the person behind it.
It was discovered that the Section 10, which deals with the ‘Cyber-terrorism,’ the law requires the creation of a new anti-terrorism law for cyberspace. HRCP chairperson I.A. Rehman stated,
“The more words you use in a law, the more confusing and open to interpretation they become. We read about good laws in textbooks because we have not been fortunate enough to see any enacted in Pakistan.”
On Section 19 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill, which deals with the crimes against modesty of a natural person or minor’, Sadaf Baig of Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) suggested that children and adults be dealt with separately, with the laws dealing with minors being as strict as possible.
MMfD’s Asad Baig voiced his concerns over Section 29, which deals with keeping the communication data, by pointing out that the information such as the phone numbers and a person’s GPS location could be used illegally to target the sources of the journalist. Earlier, we covered the faults in Pakistan’s Cybercrime Bill 2016.
Taking issue with the sweeping powers assigned to investigating officers in Section 32, NCHR’s Mr. Shafiq said that “all punitive action should be subject to a court order,” which was not currently the case.
Mr. Baig also noted that in cases of overlap with other laws, the punishment recommended in the PECB 2015 were often harsher than those stipulated in the penal code.
In the case of Section 34, which deals with ‘Power to manage online information’, everyone agreed that the provision should be omitted as it dealt with matters that should be covered by the Telecommunication Act.
Haroon Baloch from Bytes for All pointed out that there was a complete dearth of constitutional safeguards in the bill. It was also noted that in Section 36, which deals with ‘Real-time collection and recording of information,’ the criteria for surveillance is even more open-ended than in the Fair Trial Act 2013, which was also a cause for concern, Dawn reported.