Weeks of public ridicule and calls for the governing New National Party (NNP) administration to amend the Electronic Crimes Act, 2013, the controversial draft legislation was withdrawn from the Senate.
During last week Wednesday’s sitting at the Grenada Trade Centre, Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Kenny Lalsingh informed members of the House that a decision was taken to withdraw the Act and return it to the House of Representatives.
The legislation was approved in the Lower House of Parliament in June, but after reports surfaced about the intent of the Act, which could have serious implications for social network users, the NNP administration was severely chastised for making moves to pass the law.
The Act in question seeks to provide for the prevention and punishment of electronic crimes.
Lalsingh took the opportunity during the segment for government notices to inform the Senate that the Electronic Crime Bill, 2013 will not be taken at any stage of the sitting.
“Mr. President, I beg to withdraw the Electronic Crimes Bill, 2013. That decision has been arrived at on the basis of wider consultations and comments (from) various stakeholders and persons of interest”, he said.
“It is the intention of Government to take onboard as far as possible the feedbacks from as many sections of the population given the importance attached to this Bill in the context of the government’s lead role within CARICOM in the area of Information Technology, ICT”“, he added.
According to Lalsingh, it is the wish of government that feedback will be forthcoming from interested parties and stakeholders so that government can proceed with the bill.
“In the circumstances I move that this Bill be returned to the Lower House for further deliberation as we are aware, only on Monday last we had launched the front end tax e-service system which is a pilot project among the Windward Islands, with Grenada taking the lead passing legislations to facilitate e-tax governance”, he said.
The Leader of Government Business told the Senate that the gesture of withdrawing the Act, underscores government’s commitment to the involvement of the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique in all decisions, which affect their conduct, well being, security and livelihood.
Since the news of the passage of the Crime Bill during the sitting of the House of Representatives last month, the local, regional and international media have taken a keen interest in the draft legislation.
Section six of the legislation – Sending offensive messages through communication services, etc, is of utmost concern for social network users.
It reads as follows, “A person shall not knowingly or without lawful excuse of justification send by means of an electronic system or an electronic device – information that is grossly offensive or has a menacing character; information which he or she knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill-will, persistently by making use of such electronic system or a electronic device; or electronic mail or an electronic message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages”.
A person found guilty of sending offensive message through communication service etc who knowingly publishes electronic mail that is grossly offensive or menacing that is false, annoying or unconvincing can be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $100,000.00 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year or to both.
The Crime Bill, 2013 provides for the prevention and punishment of electronic crimes and for related matters.
The legislation was brought to Parliament two weeks after the publishing of phonographic material involving a school student via facebook and the subsequent arrest of a local security guard.
Legal Affairs Minister, Elvin Nimrod who tabled the Bill in the Lower House, believes the time has come for people who engage in mischievous behaviour against innocent people online to take responsibility for their actions
“We must have laws in place to protect society, especially those who are vulnerable to modern technology…”, he said.
“We have a situation where as a state, we have problems when some use the technology to engage in mischief, and we have to put structures in place to ensure that persons and in some cases companies’ characters are not tarnished,” he added.