The Bangladesh Constitution recognises the right of privacy to home and correspondence. Article 43 states that:
“Every citizen shall have the right, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of the security of the State, public order, public morality or public health
1. to be secured in his home against entry, search and seizure; and
2. to the privacy of his correspondence and other means of communication.
There is no general data protection act.
The Information and Communication Technology Act 2006 criminalizes cybercrime and creates a Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. Cyber Tribunals are authorized to conduct quick trials. The bill appears to be based on the CoE Convention. An amendment is currently being considered, and there are calls for more stringent policies.1
The Telegraph Act 1885 allows interception of communications in the interest of public safety (s. 5) and prohibits unlawful interception (ss. 25, 26). There were reports that the Government had ordered telecommunications companies to install 'lawful interception capabilities' and to retain logs of calls.2 The Telecommunications Act 2001 was amended by the Telecommunications (Amendment) Act 2006 to give police broad authority to intercept mobiles and demand information from providers. The High Court ruled in May 2006 that government must explain why this amendment was not illegal. A news article from August 2008 says that government is setting up central monitoring center despite the High Court judgement. Current development funding from the Chinese Government is going into the development of Bangladeshi communications networks.
Regulations issued in 2007 required that all mobile phones be registered by February 2008 (extended until June) or be deactivated.
The Anti-Terrorism Ordinance 2008 was secretly adopted in June 2008. It gives government broad powers of arrest.
The Freedom of Information Ordinance was adopted in 2008, giving individuals the ability to demand records from government bodies. It was directly translated into a bill when the caretaker government was replaced. In March 2009 the Parliament passed the Right to Information Bill 2009,3 though it exempts intelligence and law enforcement agencies.4 Though there will be a central regulator in the form of the Information Commissioner, the law has no specific provisions protecting privacy. The Official Secrets Act 1923 is still in force.
The Penal Code does not provide for a general right of privacy. There is only one section relating to privacy:
509. “Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.”
The National Identity Registration Authority Ordinance 2008 was approved by the Cabinet in March 2008. It has been described as creating a national registration database with at least 19 fields. The ID cards will be mandatory and used for a variety of functions including driving, tax, licences, loans, mobile, cable, satellite, etc. The voting system is planned to use biometrics from BIO-key International Inc. and Tiger IT.
A draft 87 clause of the Consumers Right Protection Ordinance, 2008 was approved in August 2008. The clause creates 21-member National Consumer Rights Protection Council, and bans unfair practices. It is unknown if it has any privacy related provisions as the text is unavailable. The National Human Rights Commission Ordinance came into effect on 1 September 2008, though it is often described as toothless.
- 1. 'Cybercrime - a growing threat', Md. Kamruzzaman Ferose, Daily Ittefaq, July 19, 2008.
- 2. 'Cellphone firms now asked to record all text messages', Abu Saeed Khan, The Daily Star, March 20, 2006.
- 3. 'Right to Information bill passed', BDNews24.com, March 30, 2009.
- 4. The National Security Intelligence, Directorate General of Forces Intelligence, the defence intelligence agencies, Criminal Investigation Department, Special Security Force, the intelligence cell of the National Board of Revenue, Special Branch of police and the intelligence cell of the Rapid Action Battalion.