Kathmandu, Nepal, December 31, 2019: Notwithstanding the outcry from the concerned stake holders including the oppositions, the government has tabled the Nepal Special Service Bill on the name of strengthen its intelligence capabilities to counter ‘threats to national security, sovereignty and integrity.’ Minister for Finance Yubraj Khatiwada tabled the bill on behalf of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Monday.
The controversy over the bill was erupted as the bill allows the government intelligence agencies to access and collect all information relating to ‘suspects’, including conversations through the electronic medium.
The government had registered the Bill in the federal parliament on December 15 claiming strengthen of its intelligence capabilities to counter ‘threats to national security, sovereignty and integrity.’ Following the tabulation of the Bill, extensive discussions were held not only in the parliamentary committee but also among the concerned stake holders demanding amendment to protect the fundamental right of the individual.
However, the Bill has been endorsed through majority votes from the parliamentary committee. As the ruling head Nepal Communist Party (NCP) have majority strength not only in the parliamentary committees but also in the federal parliament, it is likely that it would endorse easily as per the wish of the government. Notwithstanding the concerns of the opposition is suspected of an attempt to curtail freedom of expression by increasing surveillance over the personal data.
The main opposition Nepali Congress had attempted to bar the bill from being tabled in Parliament. Prakash Pantha, a member of the Upper House from the Nepali Congress had registered a notice of protest stating that the bill is against the spirit of the constitution and international principles of freedom. But his proposal was rejected by a majority vote allowing the government to present it for further discussion in the Upper House.
The Nepali Congress suspects that the bill would have brought with the ill intention of silencing dissenting voices and curtailing the individuals’ fundamental rights to freedom and privacy.
However the government has defended the bill arguing that the motive of the Bill is to strengthen the state's intelligence.
Not only the lawmakers from the opposition parties but also the legal experts have opposed Bill as some provisions of the Bill states that provisions to survey individuals are against the spirit of the constitution and fundamental principle of the democracy.
The bill has proposed up to five-year jail or Rs one million penalty or both for cyber- bullying-related offense. According to Section 83 of the bill, any activities intended at mocking others, engaging in pranks, or discouraging or threatening others will be punishable by up to five years in jail or Rs one million in fine or both.
Likewise, the Bill has also provisioned to allow the government to instruct social media companies to remove social media posts of certain individuals.