Charges proven in 15 out of 495 cases
Criminals continue to victimise people online, with conviction rates reported to be as low as 3% in cybercrime cases , under the now defunct Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act.
Analyzing data of the country’s lone Cyber Tribunal (Bangladesh) in Dhaka, it was found that charges against the accused were proven in only 15 out of 495 cases, where the accused in 480 cases were relieved of charges since the tribunal’s inception in February 2013.
Of the cases, police submitted the final report in only 129 cases before the tribunal. The accused were released as charges were not proven.
The accused were discharged at the outset in 83 cases during charge framing hearings, when the court found the probe reports to be faulty. In another 54 cases, the accused were acquitted when the prosecution failed to prove charges against them.
Legal experts said most of the accused are released mostly due to out of court settlements, lack of skilled lawyers, and the inexperience of law enforcement in handling cybercrime cases.
Cybercrimes are reported every day in the country. 2,044 cases were filed with different police stations and the cyber tribunal in the last six years, according to Cyber Tribunal (Bangladesh) data.
The tribunal data shows the court received 925 cybercrime cases in 2018, and as many as 130 cases in the first two months of 2019.
Cybercrime cases on the rise
The number of cybercrime cases was only three in 2013, but it went up to 33 in 2014, 152 in 2015, 233 in 2016, and 568 in 2017.
On January 5, 2017, a case was filed with Mohammadpur police station against cricketer Arafat Sunny by Nasrin Sultana, on charges of threatening to reveal indecent photos of her on social media sites. Nasrin claimed to be Arafat’s wife.
During the trial, Nasrin and Sunny settled the matter out of court and later on April 24, 2018, the tribunal acquitted the accused, saying the prosecution had failed to prove the charges.
On February 22, 2015, two youths, Md Rasel Mia, 21, and Din Islam, 25, assaulted a schoolgirl on her way to a coaching centre in Bhaluka upazila of Mymensingh. Later, the accused posted compromising photos of her on social media.
A case was filed with Bhaluka model police station in this regard, under Section 57 of the ICT Act. On November 30, 2017, the Dhaka based cyber tribunal delivered its verdict acquitting the two, as the prosecution failed to prove charges in the case.
Experts say the investigation officers and prosecution cannot establish charges against accused cyber criminals due to lack of skill and efficiency required in handling these cases.
They said cybercriminals are increasing alarmingly across the country as loopholes in the law let these criminals off the hook.
Analyzing a number of verdicts in cybercrime cases, it was found that the judge in many verdicts said the accused were acquitted since the prosecution could not prove charges beyond doubt in these cases.
The Bangladesh government enacted the ICT Act, with a maximum punishment of 14 years and a minimum of seven years, to curb digital crime.
Insiders say there is a need for advanced technology to investigate cybercrime as the current technical support is inadequate in dealing with these new types of crimes.
Forensic reports, electronic devices, and URLs and samples of published incidents, are most important to prove charges against cybercriminals.
But in many cases, the investigation officer often submits a charge sheet without relevant and important evidence. The court then discharges an accused, not having any substantial or relevant evidence against him/her.
Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua, with experience in a good number of cybercrime cases, said: “The investigation officers submit weak investigation reports due to poor knowledge. This is why it becomes difficult for the prosecution to prove charges.”
The legal expert also said most cases filed under the ICT Act are being filed just for harassment and the conviction rate is poor.
Advocate Nazrul Islam Shamim, a special public prosecutor for the Cyber Tribunal, said the conviction rate was very poor due to out of court settlements, and faulty police probe reports due to lack of skills in handling digital crimes.
He also said the police often submits charge sheets in cybercrime cases without IT and forensic reports.