BTRC regulations: Why this indemnity for government officials?

The regulations finalised by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) exempting ministers and government officials are not only questionable but also against the constitution.

It has been said that if anyone faces any financial loss for any work done in good faith by ministers and government officials, a lawsuit cannot be filed claiming compensation. BTRC has recently submitted the final draft of the regulation titled 'Regulation for Digital and Social Media Platforms, 2021' to the High Court, said Khandaker Reza-e-Raqib, the lawyer for the organisation.

It has added a new clause called indemnity, the gist of which is that if any person is harmed by reason of any act done in good faith in execution of any order or direction under this regulation, the person cannot file any case seeking compensation against a minister or any servant of the government, chairman of BTRC or any other officer, employee or consultant of the commission.

The indemnity of public servants involved in activities to fulfil the objectives in this draft regulation is in conflict with the constitution of the country. The constitution mentions the right of people to equality and protection of law. Article 10 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights refer to the right to access to justice in a competent court.

The term ‘good faith’ as defined in the regulation is not ‘good’ at all. The court will decide who is guilty and who is innocent. But there is no scope of early immunity in law. State institutions do not run on good faith, they run on the basis of law. If good faith is taken into account in the case of government officials, why can't others enjoy the same?

All citizens are equal in the eyes of the law. If the regulation of BTRC is accepted, if the state institution or anyone else is affected by the work of an individual, they will also present the same argument. Thus there will be no opportunity to take action against anyone for committing any crime.

Supreme Court lawyer ZI Khan Panna said no one can take such advantage by enacting law if there is faith in the constitution.

Such a case will not stand in court. The provision in the Public Servants Act to seek permission from higher authorities for arrest before filing a charge sheet against an accused official has been challenged in court. This lawyer hopes that this law will also be repealed.

Everyone is equal in the eyes of the law and everyone has the right to justice violation of which may affect the effectiveness of the law. Hopefully, BTRC will come out of the culture of impunity by revising the final regulations. Earlier drafts of the BTRC regulations had mandated identification of the source or first originator of prohibited messages.

BTRC dropped the clause in the latest draft due to objections raised on social media. We welcome their decision. But the proposal to grant immunity to ministers and government officials is not acceptable at all.