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Analogue laws for digital crimes

  • Published at 06:03 pm December 1st, 2019
Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

We need a more comprehensive system to deal with cyber crimes

In 2013, the Cyber Tribunal of Bangladesh was created under Section 68 of the Information and Communication Technology Act 2006. After six years, the number of cases filed in the tribunal is 1849, of which 522 have been resolved. 

There is only one tribunal located in Dhaka; however, what is alarming is that it does not have a specific courtroom. Because of this impermanence, cases are not disposed of as fast as they ought to be. The fact that a mere 25 criminals have been punished till now is cause for contemplation.

Despite it being a cyber tribunal, there are no technological appliances for presenting evidence in the court. The tribunal still conducts proceedings in an old-fashioned manner. Not only does it not accept or take media evidence into account, the tribunal does not have a single computer in its possession either.

Delays in court proceedings are yet another downside. The judges of the cyber tribunal carry out their work in special judge court-4, and have to wait until there are vacancies or breaks of any kind to be able to conduct their cases in that court room. The special judge court, on the other hand, continues to function in full swing.

The real sufferers in all of this are the litigants. Many have to travel from different, sometimes faraway, places for the hearings. Even when they do come, they cannot be assured of when the hearing will be conducted, if at all.

These hearings are entirely dependent on the vacancy of the court room, and, as such, there is no telling when they might take place. Even these long waits may not pay off, because there are chances that the hearings will only be delayed further due to a lack of evidence.

In 2019, the government enacted the Digital Security Act with the foresight that, with the fulfillment of the Digital Bangladesh manifesto, the issue of cyber-crime will also thrive. And truly, cyber-crime cases continue to rise almost daily as newer and more advanced technology becomes more commonplace -- 925 cases were lodged in 2018, and the number is only increasing.

Previous cases which were filed under the information and communication technology act are mostly based on Facebook harassment, cyber extortion, issues over religious sentiments, spreading unsubstantiated information, publishing false and defamatory reports on online portals, hacking, and so on. 

As time passes, crime will continue to change. The ability to adapt and deal with these cases is still wholly absent in the judicial system. Issues will only get more complicated, and whereas other countries have already begun preparing their defenses against cyber warfare, we continue to struggle with finding court rooms for our cases.

People are suffering, cases continue to be piled on, and cyber-crime gets more complicated still. If progress is to be made, this issue must be solved as rapidly as possible. Justice delayed is justice denied. 

Jahidul Anwar is a student of law.

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