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20/04/2022 Legislation Monitor, Research

Legislation Monitor: Latest on the Internet Bill

دیده‌بان قانونگذاری

Latest on the Internet Bill

In the first working week of the Persian new year, a group of MPs (185  representatives) signed a letter asking the parliament to reconsider its previous vote and return the consideration of this bill to standard procedure.[1] Last year, in August 2021, members of parliament voted by a majority to review and approve the bill in a special commission under Article 85 of the Constitution.[2]

According to Article 85 of the Constitution, the parliament can delegate the power of legislating specific laws to its committees whenever necessary. In such a case, the laws will be implemented on a tentative basis for a period specified by the parliament, and their final approval will rest with the parliament.[3]

Since the bill was introduced in 2021, civil activists and many citizens have opposed it, calling it a new attempt to increase restrictions in cyberspace further and block citizens’ free access to the Internet and information.[4]

Despite all the opposition, MPs decided to consider the bill under Article 85 of the Constitution. An action that will make it possible to pass the law in full and even more strictly.

The special commission formed with 23 members reviewed the bill since August 2021. In February 2022, the special commission approved the general content of the draft bill by 19 votes in favor.[5] It met with numerous public reactions—including reactions to the implementation of the rules of procedure and the manner of voting. The legal deputy of the parliament’s board of directors declared in a letter that the voting method was against the rules.[6]

However, the special commission’s chairs insisted that the process was correct and issued letters criticizing the legal deputy’s intervention on two occasions.[7] The last one was on April 11, which in his letter, he treated to file legal action against the deputy if he continued to distract the commission operations.[8]

Opponents of the bill have tried in recent months to change the course of the bill in various ways.[9] The last step was to request the dissolution of the special commission and return the bill to normalcy.[10]

The formal letter, signed by 185 MPs, was presented to the parliament on April 4. According to the procedure, this request should have been on the parliament’s agenda. On April 11, the parliament discussed the proposal in a closed-door meeting.[11] According to reports, an “informal vote” was sought from the parliament. According to the news, based on votes, the review of the bill should return to standard procedure, and the special commission will be dissolved.[12] This form of voting is called informal voting and is taken only to measure the overall composition of the pros and cons.

Reactions to the vote have continued over the past few days. The members of the special commission consider this voting non-binding and continue to insist on their opinion.[13] On the other hand, several other MPs believe the vote results mean the dissolution of the special commission.[14]

As of April 13, the next step is still unclear because the “informal vote” is not binding, and there is no mention of it in the parliament’s internal procedure rules.[15] Any legal decision by the parliament must be taken in public session, and voting during closed-door meetings is not a legal decision. It most likely needs another round of votes in the general session to adopt the proposal to dissolve the special commission and review the ill under standard procedure.

However, even if the majority in the public session votes to adopt this proposal, the bill’s current version will be the base of review in standard procedure.[16] Still, instead of 23 members, all 290 members of the parliament will contribute to the discussion and vote for or against it.

Related information:

Human rights groups sound alarm against the draconian Internet Bill