1.5 million rupees fine, five years jail sentence or both proposed

Kathmandu, February 14

The government has registered Information Technology Bill proposing fine up to Rs 1.5 million and jail term up to five years or both for posting or propagating  objectionable contents on social networking sites.

Section 94 (1) (b) of the bill stipulates that no one should write anything to promote caste discrimination or untouchability, disrespect labour, incite anybody to commit crime,  promote acts  undermining  peace and security,  publish or propagate  illegal things or act or incite others to act against public decency and morality.

Section 94 (1) (c) stipulates that no one should write anything to tease, confuse, undermine, discourage, reprimand anybody or to create hatred and enmity or mislead other persons.

Section 94 (1) (d) stipulates that no one should sell or advertise illegal things or demonstrate or publish such things.

Section 94 (1) (e) stipulates that no one should write anything with the motive of assassinating anybody’s character or defaming anybody.

The bill proposes to impose a fine not exceeding Rs 1.5 million and jail term not exceeding five years or both for the above mentioned crimes.

If social networking sites fail to remove objectionable contents from their sites after being told by the government authority, they will face a fine up to Rs 30,000 and jail term up to three years or both.

Social networking sites should register themselves with government bodies and social networking sites currently operating in Nepal should also register with government bodies within the stipulated time frame.

The government can prevent social networking sites not registered in Nepal from operating in the country.

The bill stipulates that no one should create class, ethnic, religious, regional, communal and other such hatred, enmity and contempt or conspire or make attempts to do so or incite others to do so in a manner that can undermine Nepal’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, national security, national unity, independence or national interest and relations between federal units.

Executive Director of Freedom Forum Taranath Dahal said the government had brought the bill with the motive of curtailing citizens’ freedom of expression. He said there were separate laws to deal with sexual harassment, defamation and national security; and therefore, the government should not have included provisions related to these things in the bill in the first place. He said the bill failed to recognise the fact that defamation should not be criminalised. “Journalists work to meet strict deadlines and they may make mistakes due to haste and news sources’ mistakes, so they should be given a chance to correct their mistakes. Journalists’ work should not be criminalised,” he argued. Dahal also said while the government’s objective of bringing the social networking sites under the tax net might be justified, its proposal to require them to register in Nepal was wrong.

Dahal said Article 17 (2) of the constitution stipulated reasonable restriction of freedom of expression, but the bill had added extra restrictions beyond the sanction of the constitution.

Major provisions

  • No cyber bullying,

    harassing, undermining, discouraging, belittling and reprimanding

  • No undermining national security, sovereignty, territorial integrity, nationality, national unity, independence, pride and relations between federal units or obstructing country’s security and data system or adversely impacting such things
  • No sexual harassment, enticement and threats of sexual harassment
  • No generation, collection, publication, sale and procurement of obscene materials