Computer and Cyber Crime Bill welcome long overdue

This article was first published in the Business Daily newspaper 26 July 2016.

In February, the Bangladesh Central Bank was hacked and $81 million stolen in hours. Cybercrime is a common occurrence in today’s digital world. Many nations and entities are usually caught flatfooted when such attacks occur.

To address the problem, the ICT ministry has come up with the Computer and Cyber Crimes Bill 2016. Many say the proposed law is long overdue. The Bill seeks to combat cybercrimes and provides for international co-operation to punish perpetrators who are in other jurisdictions. Among the offences listed are unauthorised access and unauthorised interference of computer systems.

The Bill has a provision that criminalises unauthorised interception of communication.

We all remember the IFMIS procurement system and password saga at the National Youth Service (NYS). Now it will be a crime to share passwords without authority for unlawful purposes like wrongful gain. This crime will be punishable upon conviction with a fine not exceeding Sh10 million or imprisonment for five years.

The Bill has provisions that will go a long way in upholding data protection principles. Another plus in the Bill is the provision that outlaws child pornography. Issues dealing with cyber fraud and forgery have also been provided for in the Bill. These crimes are very common and many people have been victims.


Perpetrators of these crimes risk a jail term not exceeding ten years or Sh20 million fine. The major challenge with this provision is where fraudsters are in prison as has been the norm. It is not clear how the law will deal with such cases.

Online stalkers and cyber bullies are also at risk of conviction if this Bill passes. The menace has become rampant in this age of social media. The effect of this is usually psychological trauma with some victims opting to commit suicide.

For cases of fraud, the court can order for confiscation and forfeiture of assets acquired from the proceedings of cybercrime. The aspect of compensation of victims is also provided for expressly in this bill. Here, the court will order the convicted person to pay the victim a specified amount of money.

People who commit other crimes under other laws but using a computer system will be liable to conviction. On procedures, the Bill has provisions that will require investigating agencies to seek court orders before search and seizures. Here the agencies need to prove to the court that limiting the right to privacy is necessary.

The Bill can be said to be a step in the right direction. However, upon its enactment, civil education should be done extensively so that victims of cybercrime may know that they have recourse under the law.

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