Government to reveal fate of Section 57 of ICT Act in August

The decision on whether to move a controversial section of the ICT Act to the newly-drafted Digital Security Act will be revealed in August.

Published : 9 July 2017, 10:17 AM
Updated : 9 July 2017, 01:40 PM

The Section-57 of the ICT Act was among several issues discussed during an inter-ministerial meeting on Sunday, Law Minister Anisul Huq told reporters at the Secretariat.

"We will make an outline from the matters we discussed today, and bring it within the draft of the Digital Security Act, which we will discuss in our August meeting. That is when you'll be informed about our decision on Section-57," he said.

Offences under Section-57 include electronic posts containing information that defame an individual or the state, and cause deterioration of law or hurt religious belief. They are punishable with jail term from seven to 14 years.

Human rights activists and several journalists have been campaigning for its removal, saying it offered a scope of misuse by law-enforcing agencies.

The ICT Act, passed in 2006, was amended in 2009 and 2013.

The last amendment raised the maximum jail term for violation of Section-57 from 10 to 14 years, and described the offences as non-bailable.

The ‘confusion’ around the issue would be cleared once Section-57 is removed from the ICT Act and the Digital Security Act is drafted, the law minister had said earlier.

The cases already filed under the section were not discussed in Sunday's meeting at the secretariat, Minister Huq said.

He was asked whether cases will continue to be filed under Section-57 before the Digital Security Act is finalised.

“If we annul Section-57, decisions about the existing cases will be taken when the new law is passed,” the minister replied.

“The ongoing cases under Section-57 are in police and court’s jurisdiction. I’ve told you before, our investigation agencies will look into the Section-57 cases for possible violation against journalists or freedom of speech.”

The minister said, “We’ll be thorough in our investigation... so that no innocent journalist is punished or harassed.”

"Cases over such offences will be filed under Section-57 as long as it's there," he said. “Nothing else can be said about this.”
“But filing a case is not the end of the story. An investigation is conducted before the chargesheet is submitted. I can assure you all that the probe will be absolutely fair,” Huq told reporters.

But these cases mostly targeted journalists, reporters told the minister.

“If you are concerned about this, I’ll take note and inform our investigating agency to take this into consideration.”

When asked if Section-57 will remain as Section-19 of the draft Digital Security Act, Huq said, “We haven’t reached a conclusion yet. You’ll know about the final decision in mid-August.”