DSA case dismissal: Let this precedent be followed in other cases as well

Prothom Alo illustration

The recent dismissal of a case filed under Digital Security Act (DSA) against the former mayor of Rajshahi City Corporation and BNP leader Mizanur Rahman alias Minu has set an example. This law has often been misused as a means to harass individuals, using allegations of defamation or hurting sentiments.

The case against Mizanur Rahman Minu, filed on behalf of Rajshahi-4 constituency member of parliament Enamul Haque, by one of the officials of Enamul Haque's business firm, Ena Group, has been dismissed by Dhaka Cyber Tribunal judge AM Zulfiqar Hayat. The judge ruled that there is no legal basis to pursue the case further.

It was noted that the person who filed the case, Parvez Hossain, did not stand as a direct complainant, nor was any of his close friends or relatives involved in the matter. As a result, since there was no personal harm inflicted by Mizanur Rahman Minu's comments, the case was ultimately dismissed.

Parvez Hossain claimed that during a private television talk show on 19 July at 1:00 am, BNP leader Mizanur Rahman Minu referred to Enamul Haque as the 'former president of Chhatra Shibir', the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami. Mizanur Rahman insisted Enamul Haque was never associated with Chhatra League or Jubo League, and highlighted that he is currently a member of parliament representing the Awami League.

Rather than presenting evidence to refute Mizanur Rahman's allegations and proving his involvement with Chhatra League and Jubo League while denying any affiliation with Chhatra Shibir, Enamul Haque chose to take a different approach. He filed a case under the Digital Security Act, using an officer from his business company to do so.

Previously, it has been observed that individuals in positions of authority often exploit the legal system to target political rivals and journalists by filing cases. The Digital Security Act acts as a powerful weapon in this. The matter of concern of this law is that the accused often face punishment, such as imprisonment, even before the trial takes place, without having been proven guilty.

Consequently, many individuals endure prolonged periods of incarceration while awaiting investigation, which is supposed to be completed within 90 days for cases filed under this Act.

The case filed against the BNP leader was dismissed by the judge of the Dhaka Cyber Tribunal on the grounds of being out of jurisdiction. Legal experts believe it should set a precedent for similar cases in other areas as well. When an individual feels defamed or hurt by someone's actions or words, they should ideally be the one to file the case. Why would someone else file the case on behalf of the victim?

Since its inception in 2018, DSA was opposed by people from various walks of life, including media workers. Although the government claimed the law's purpose was to prosecute digital media-related crimes, it has, in practice, been used arbitrarily to try dissenting individuals, leading to restricted access to justice. Most significantly, the law has instilled a culture of fear in society.

Law minister Anisul Huq has acknowledged the law's misuse and pledged to amend it. However, we believe that this law is unnecessary to regulate crimes committed through digital media and advocate for its repeal.