THIS is with reference to the report “Body to regulate ‘unbridled’ social media set up” (May 4), which talked about the federal government’s notification of a day earlier, constituting the National Cyber Crime Investigation Agency (NCCIA) to deal with offences related to cybersecurity. With this development, the Cybercrime Wing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) now stands defunct.

Though the notification cited section 51 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca), 2016, as a legal authority behind the move, there are many legal lacunas that speak volumes of procedural mishaps, and the haste that was shown by the government in making the announcement.

First, Peca section 51 does not authorise the federal government to dissolve any existing wing of the FIA, and constituting a whole new one to replace it.

Second, the section specifically vests in the government the power of rulemaking for carrying out the purposes of Peca. This rulemaking may range from specifying powers as well as responsibilities of the investigation agency to the appointment of the designated agency having enough proven capability to collect real-time information.

However, in the latest move, neither a single rule was made in the context of section 51 nor the establishment of NCCIA can fall into ‘the appointment of designated agency’ part. Appointing an agency is quite different from establishing an agency. Even the currently dissolved Cybercrime Wing of FIA was ‘guided’, not ‘established’, under Peca.

Moreover, the sole authority behind the formation of FIA, including all its wings, is the FIA Act of 1974, not Peca 2016. As such, the latter introduced modern offences to be dealt with by the investigation agency that was already existent and operational at the time. Since no prior legislation was passed by parliament, the establishment of NCCIA is, therefore, a step outside the powers of the federal government, and an action that has been taken beyond the law. Therefore, all the relevant stakeholders, including the higher judiciary, must take due action so that the supremacy of the law of the land may be established.

Minahil Saleem
Hyderabad

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2024

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