Public hearing of Cyber Crime Bill is not so public

By Mohammad Farooq on
May 21, 2015
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The much delayed but anticipated public hearing in regards to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015 has been scheduled for Friday, May 22nd, 2015 by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology (IT). Invites have only been rendered to seven people to appear before a committee of 20 members, which is incompatible to the spirit of a ‘public hearing’.

Summary of the events leading up to the Public hearing

The Cyber-Crime bill has been a source of much criticism in its current form.It has been panned by internet advocacy groups, members of civil society at large for violating freedom of speech, civil liberties and the right to privacy. The bill grants unlimited powers to law enforcement agencies (LEA’s) without any recourse to being held liable for their actions. For example, the bill’s focus seems to limit rather than freeing up things on the cyberspace and Section 34 of the bill is supposedly giving unchecked powers to the Pakistan Telecom Authority. Section 22 on spamming disallows sending an email to anyone without permission, this gives the sender the right to file an FIR against the perpetrator who sends the email. Section 29 pertains to the mandatory retention of traffic data by Internet service providers which threatens the users right to privacy online, allows undue surveillance on part of the state.

The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of stakeholders has held various press briefings, open house hearings in Islamabad in regards to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015. Their requests to hold public hearings had been outrightly rejected by the National Standing Committee on IT. Proposals in regards to the Cyber-Crime bill were being received by the Chairman Captain Mohammad Safdar of the PML-N via e-mail.

What the future holds

The constituted ‘public hearing’ tomorrow by the National Assembly Standing Committee is the last straw in a convoluted saga of the much maligned Cyber-Crime bill. The Joint Action Committee has already issued a rebuttal in regards to this hearing requesting that a proper public hearing be constituted instead of handpicked invitees. JAC wants the public hearing to be opened to all concerned members of the public, print and the electronic media.
What tomorrow awaits us in aftermath of this public hearing, stay tuned and await the updates here exclusively on TechJuice.

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