Summary: Senate Standing Committee on IT’s subcommittee meetings on PECB

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Below is a summary of the discussion and outcomes of the two meetings held on June 29 and 30 by the Senate Standing Committee on IT’s subcommittee, tasked to review the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill. The meetings were chaired by Senator Osman Saifullah Khan.

These were attended by Senators, representatives from Ministry or Law and Ministry of IT and FIA’s cybercrime unit (NR3C). Members from civil society and industry were also present. While many of the attendees from civil society and industry argued for the deletion of various sections, however the committee asked for alternate formulations instead. What was available based on previous drafting efforts was presented, and for sections for which there was no version available, time until after the Eid holidays was sought. The committee Chairman assigned which sections were to be redrafted and by whom.

Section 1: Short title, application and commencement

Ministry to give legal opinion on how this can be applied those who are not citizens and reside outside Pakistan

Section 9: Glorification of an offence and hate speech

Concern was how this could be used to book political workers and rights activists these days being charged under the ATA. It was pointed out that the phrase hate speech should be removed as this section doesn’t deal with it and committee feels a separate law on that is required. JAC language was also read out. After discussion, it was decided that the FIA’s proposal on glorification would be considered.

Section 18 – Offences against the natural dignity of a natural person

Removal of this was discussed and earlier it was suggested that either language be amended or defamation law revisited. World moving away from criminal defamation, plus laws already exist. Decision is for alternate language to be presented – MOITT and Wahaj us Siraj (ISPAK) both to submit something for this.

Section 19 – Offences against modesty of a natural person and minor

Kasur incident was discussed and how media in possession of the videos and in an attempt to draw attention towards the crime and for action to be taken, could be prosecuted under current language. It was recommended that a separate section should pertain to minors. MOITT to prepare alternate formulation. Senator Farhatullah Babar to prepare his own alternate formulation too. Alternate language from JAC draft was read out and submitted.

Section 21 – Cyber Stalking

Sub sections (a) and (d) are problematic. Language is broad. Protections need to be added to exempt activities in public interest. Alternate language to be provided.

Section 22 – Spamming

Committee recommended that the jail term be removed, fine could be raised. MOITT to prepare alternate language. Alternate language from JAC draft was read out and submitted.

Section 28 –  Expedited Preservation and acquisition of data

Need for oversight and accountability since the section stipulates “if an authorized officer is satisfied.” MOITT director legal explained this in relation to Sections 32 and 38, saying there are safeguards. Senator Farhatullah Babar will prepare alternate language, MOITT instructed to do same. Alternate language from JAC draft was read out and submitted.

Section 29 – Retention of traffic data

EU directive as precedence for this cited by MOITT the day before has been struck down. Alternate formulation to be presented by Nighat Daad (DRF) and Senator Farhatullah Babar.

Section 34 – Unlawful content online

Removal of this was discussed since this section doesn’t deal with an offence, gives over broad powers to PTA to carry out censorship. Bolo Bhi’s IHC case was discussed. At first the suggestion was to remove it or if it had to be added anywhere with a process then it should be the Telecom Act. MOITT and ICC now have to present an alternate formulation to this.

Section 39 – International Cooperation

Sharing of data of Pakistani citizens with foreign governments was flagged as a concern. Senator Farhatullah Babar will prepare alternate formulation. Nighat will also submit. Alternate language from JAC draft was read out and submitted.

Section 45(2)

Criminal penalty on operators in subsections 29(3) as well as Section 45 (2) to be removed. Prior publication of rules/bylaws was recommended drawing from existing precedent for it in the ETO. Alternate language from JAC draft was read out and submitted.

Next steps (to be delivered after the Eid holidays):

MOITT to formulate and insert blanket protection into the bill, and also alternate formulation for other clauses discussed.

FIA to submit alternate proposal for Section 9

Senator Farhatullah Babar to prepare alternate formulations for Sections 19, 28, 29 and 39

Asad Baig (MMFD) to submit whistleblower protection and protection of public good formulation

Nighat Daad (DRF) to submit alternate language to Sections 29 and 39

Wahaj us Siraj (ISPAK) to submit alternate language to Section 18

ICC to submit alternate language to Section 34

Attached are alternate formulations from the JAC draft to Sections 19, 22, 28 and 39 that Farieha Aziz of Bolo Bhi read out at the meeting and submitted to the committee through the committee secretary and emailed to Senators Osman Saifullah and Farhatullah Babar. Also included is language for prior publication of guidelines/rules as it came up for discussion with reference to 45(2), and mailed the JAC redraft for consideration of procedural sections which have not been discussed as yet.

See: Amendments submitted to subcommittee

See: JAC redraft 

See: Initial Analysis on latest version of the bill here

See: Latest version of the Bill 

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