House committee endorses Information Technology Bill
30 Dec, 2019
By Arpana Adhikari
Kathmandu Dec. 30: Development and Technology Committee of the House of Representatives has endorsed the much-talked-about Information Technology Bill with majority votes. The draft was endorsed despite opposition from the lawmakers of the main opposition party, Nepali Congress, in the committee meeting. Following the endorsement of the bill from the committee on Sunday, the bill, along with the report will be endorsed by the House and Representatives before tabling it to the National Assembly. The government had drafted the bill to regulate the information technology and social networking sites. After getting through both the Houses, the electronic record and digital signature will get certified. Likewise, the committee agreed on the provision in which the government and public offices of the central government, state government and local government will be allowed to provide their services online. Similarly, the committee also agreed to allow people to submit application online. The bill has also made cyber bullying, cyber threat and misuse of electronic system punishable acts. The bill was prepared in a way to control potential misuse of social media and have stricter provisions of punishment in relation to the cases of crimes committed through social media. However, in the initial stage, the bill had drawn flaks. If a person is found spreading hatred and scolding another person in social media, the offenders can be fined up to Rs. 1.5 million and sentenced a jail term up to five years. Lawmakers of the Nepali Congress had registered notes of dissent on different clauses of the bill. It has opposed the provisions included in cyber bullying, registration of social networking sites and statements on social media, among others. If a person is twisting, erasing and destroying information can be fined up to Rs. 500,000 or sentenced a jail term of up to three years or both. However, the committee has decreased fine that was proposed by the government. But it has increased the fine for those who run programmes with ill-intentions. It has also changed the fine amount in the crimes related to online trading, plagiarism and sexual harassment through the social media. However, the committee increased the fine amount in the cases relating to sexual abuse to Rs. 250,000 from Rs. 30,000 as proposed by the government. Likewise, the committee provisioned the fine of Rs. 1.5 million and a jail sentence of up to five
years for anyone who acts against sovereignty, integrity, independency and national security of the nation and disrupts the communal harmony. Similar provisions of punishment are for those who promote caste discrimination and untouchability, tease or insult or hate others, publish and air the ads banned by the law. Likewise, the committee provisioned a separate court to look into the cases related information technology crimes. Answering the questions raised by lawmakers, Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gokul Prasad Baskota asked the opposition party not to make the contents of the Information Technology Bill a political agenda. Minister Baskota said the government had no intention to control the fundamental rights ensured by the Constitution. “I have consulted with many lawmakers about the bill. They have said that the bill is good, but they are reluctant to support the bill,” said Minister Baskota. According to him, once the bill is passed, the electronic record and signature would be certified. “Persons involved in cyber bullying will not be spared.” Stating that there were many countries which had made the misuse of social media as a punishable act, Minister Baskota asked the lawmakers of the opposition parties not to connect the social sites with the mainstream media. The bill provisions require registration of Facebook, Twitter, Viber and other social networking sites inside Nepal, he said, adding that some had misunderstood this provision.