The newly proposed Cyber Security Act (CSA), which is set to replace the controversial Digital Security Act (DSA), appears to be the same product that comes in a different package, according to legal experts.
This is basically rebranding without much value addition and isn't expected to bring much change on the ground, they said.
Speaking to The Business Standard, Nur Khan Liton, executive director of human rights organisation Ain O Salish Kendra, said, "All the provisions of the old law are kept in the new one, but some changes are made in terms of punishment and bail."
He also said, "It can be said the same repressive law is kept intact but comes in a new package."
Various domestic and foreign organisations and rights groups have been demanding the repeal of DSA, with some calling for cancellation of the repressive clauses of the law. But none of these were taken into account by the government, he added.
"By changing the name, the government is trying to appease foreign organisations, domestic human rights organisations and ordinary citizens so they can no longer raise any questions about the previous law – as the next national election is approaching."
The rights activist also said the previous law gave the police extensive power to make arrests or conduct searches, and this has not been amended.
Eminent jurist Shahdeen Malik, in an interview with the BBC Bangla, said, "Only in one or two instances, sentences have been reduced. Also, the provision of doubled punishment for a second offence has been abolished.
"But people who become victims of misuse of this law have nothing to be optimistic about," he said, adding that those who used to be jailed for seven years will now be jailed for three.
The eminent jurist feels the fundamental objections regarding the law still remain. Stating that issues such as "insult" and "defamation" should be prosecuted under the civil law, he said, "Such cases are being prosecuted under the criminal law. This remains the main objection. These areas have not been changed."
One of the most-talked-about changes is the scrapping of jail sentences in defamation suits. Section 29 (1) of the DSA titled "Publication, transmission, of defamatory information" provides for a maximum of three-year imprisonment, a maximum of Tk5 lakh in fine, or both.
Under the CSA, the provision for jail time will be scrapped, but the maximum fine will be raised five times to Tk25 lakh.
Indeed, in most changes, it was seen that jail time has been reduced, although the wording remained more or less the same.
Increasingly stricter punishment for repeated offences, however, was toned down in some cases. Also, some offences – which were non-bailable in the DSA – have now become bailable.
Questions, however, remain on how the law will be used once passed.
Speaking at a parliamentary session in June, Law minister Anisul Huq said some 7,001 cases were filed across the country as of 31 January of this year under the DSA.
The Centre for Governance Studies, in their findings in January, revealed that only 2% sued under the DSA came close to the court.