The cabinet has given the final approval to the draft Cyber Security Act 2023, which will replace the controversial Digital Security Act, making all offences bailable except for those under four sections.
Illegal access to critical information and computer infrastructure, cyber terrorism offences, hacking-related offences and desecration of the national flag and the Liberation War will not be bailable under the proposed law, Cabinet Secretary Mahbub Hossain told reporters after the approval came at a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office on Monday.
"Vetting of the draft law is over. It will be placed in the next parliament session," he added.
The cabinet had initially approved the draft Cyber Security Act 2023 in principle in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 7 August.
On 9 August, the draft of the act was published on the website of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Department, seeking the views of stakeholders within 14 days. It received around 500 responses.
According to government officials, the proposed law will replace the DSA with amendments to some sections of the existing law and the addition of new penalties for hacking-related offences.
However, stakeholders and human rights organisations have voiced concerns regarding the draft of the proposed Cyber Security Act. They said certain sections of the Act have remained largely unchanged, with only minor sentence reductions and the introduction of bail provisions.
The DSA was enacted in 2018, aimed at replacing the controversial Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, 2006 (as amended in 2013), which was passed during the BNP-Jamaat reign.
Security deposit doubled for reserved seats for women
During the cabinet meeting, the draft of the National Parliament Reserved Women Seats Election Amendment Act 2023 received final approval. This amendment entails a doubling of the security deposit required for candidates contesting reserved women's seats at Tk20,000.
Furthermore, the proposed act incorporates the provision for a total of 50 reserved seats for women.
Cabinet Secretary Mahbub Hossain said that the constitutional fifteenth amendment increased the number of reserved seats for women from 45 to 50, a provision that has now been officially incorporated into law.
Additionally, a provision has been introduced to conduct a by-election within 90 days if a parliamentary general seat becomes vacant for any reason. Until now, by-elections for reserved women's seats were held within 45 days of the vacancy. This timeframe has now been extended to 90 days, according to the cabinet secretary.
One can no longer own more than 60 bighas of land
The cabinet also granted its final endorsement to the draft of the Land Reform Act-2023. The draft stipulates that Bangladeshi citizens can no longer own more than 60 bighas of land. If someone owns more than 60 bighas of land, the government will acquire the additional land.
However, this regulation will not apply to cooperative societies, proprietors of tea, coffee, rubber, and fruit plantations, owners of land used for the production of industrial raw materials and export-oriented industries, agricultural processing ventures, waqfs, as well as religious trusts.
The renewal of the 112-year-old patent law is also underway, with the cabinet having granted its ultimate endorsement to the Bangladesh Patent Act-2023 draft.
The cabinet secretary said that until now, patents in Bangladesh held a 16-year term, but under the new legislation, the term will extend to 20 years. Moreover, while previously products and processes could be jointly patented, the revised regulations stipulate that separate patents must now be pursued.
The Trade Organisations (Amendment) Act has also secured its ultimate approval. A significant amendment in this legislation is the extension of the term for the outgoing committee to continue in office for 12 months, a shift from the previous duration of six months, in case circumstances prevent timely elections from taking place.
The draft of the New Development Bank Act and the draft of Dr MA Wazed Mia Agriculture University Act-2023 also received approval.