The newly formulated draft of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2014 proposes some stringent punishments for cyber crimes but leaves all offences as bailable.
Many of the cybercrimes – including cyber terrorism, unauthorised interception, illegal access to information system and programme or data, illegal interference with programme or data, electronic forgery, identity crime and protection of women – have been covered under the proposed legislation.
However, the draft law, which will become act once the parliament approves it, is likely to face criticism as it gives absolute immunity to security agencies from any prosecution.
“The offences, powers and procedures provided under this Act are not related to and have no application upon the activities, powers or functions of intelligence agencies or services and are without prejudice to the operation of or powers exercised under section 54 of Pakistan Telecommunication Act, 1996, the Army Act 1952, the Air Force Act 1953, the Navy Ordinance 1961, the purview of the Intelligence Bureau, the intelligence agency or intelligence service notified by the Federal Government,” says the Clause 50 of the draft.
The draft law also leaves for the government to decide which of its agencies would perform the task of investigation and prosecution.
It can be Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) or any of the existing law enforcement agencies or the government can establish a new law enforcement agency for this purpose, the draft says.
However, only the authorised investigative agency would prosecute the offence. Such cases would be tried at not lower than session court or higher courts.
The arrests could be made only after the permission of a court and once the investigation officer satisfies the court that there exist reasonable grounds to believe it was necessary to proceed with such action.
Minister of State for Information Technology Anusha Rehman told The Express Tribune that draft of the much-awaited cybercrime law was ready for consideration of the cabinet in its meeting likely to take place next week.
“It will subsequently be placed before the parliament,” she said, adding that the UK’s model had been followed in preparation of the draft as Pakistani laws corresponded with the British laws.
Cybercrime is considered one of the biggest security threats all over the world. Almost all countries, including developing African countries have already framed these laws. However, in Pakistan there is no such law since an ordinance promulgated in December 2007 expired the next year.
The draft law proposes a maximum of 14 years of imprisonment and up to Rs50 million in fine for cyber terrorism, which it defines as an illegal use of technology to threaten, coerce, intimidate, overawe or create sense of fear, or insecurity to the government or general public or any sect.
It suggests two-year imprisonment and Rs500,000 fine for unauthorised interception and six-month imprisonment and up to Rs100,000 fine for illegal access to information system.
The proposed legislation recommends four-year jail term and up to Rs3 million fine for illegal access to programme or data and three-year imprisonment and Rs500,000 fine for illegal interference with programme or data.
Those committing offence against government controlled or public information system programme or data can also face up to seven-year jail and Rs7 million fine.
The draft law also tries to protect the sanctity of women and recommends up to one-year imprisonment for those involved in transmitting any electronic communication that harms the reputation of a woman.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2014.
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