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The Global Legal Monitor is an online publication from the Law Library of Congress covering legal news and developments worldwide. It is updated frequently and draws on information from official national legal publications and reliable press sources. You can find previous news by searching the Global Legal Monitor.

Czech Republic: Legislature Approves Draft Amendments to Tax Law

(Sept. 23, 2016) The Czech Parliament approved a draft amendment of the Income Tax Law and the Criminal Code on September 6, 2016. The legislation will next go to the President for approval and will become effective on the first day of the second month after it is published in the Collection of Laws, the official gazette. The amended provisions are designed to make it easier to identify income on which taxes have not been paid by requiring an accounting of the origins of taxable property. (Czech Republic: Bill on Origin of Property Approved by Parliament, TAX NEWS SERVICE (Sept. 9, 2016), International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation (IBFD) online subscription database. )

Taxpayers may be liable for additional tax if they have underpaid and, if the amount of their property is valued at more than CZK5 million (about US$207,650) over the amount of income they have declared, they may be subject to sanctions. If a taxpayer cannot account for the origin of his or her income or holdings and the tax bill may exceed CZK2 million, the amount of tax actually due will be estimated and penalties may rise to 100% of that estimated tax liability. (Id.)

The proposal to develop legislation on the subject of accounting for assets for tax purposes came from the Ministry of Finance in October 2014. (Czech Republic: Concept of Proposed Legislation on Origin of Property Presented, TAX NEWS SERVICE (Oct. 23, 2014),IBFD.) On May 15, 2015, the Ministry announced that it had sent a draft of the legislation to the government for approval, and in July 2015, the proposed law was sent to the bicameral legislature. (Czech Republic: Bill on Origin of Property Submitted to Government, TAX NEWS SERVICE (May 18, 2015), IBFD; Czech Republic: Bill on Origin of Property Submitted to Parliament, TAX NEWS SERVICE (July 9, 2015), IBFD.)

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Aruba: Same-Sex Partnerships Recognized by Law

(Sept. 23, 2016) On September 8, 2016, the Parliament of Aruba, one of the constituent countries that comprise the Kingdom of the Netherlands, voted to amend the Aruban Civil Code provisions on marriage so as to officially recognize same-sex registered partnerships. The amendment will give same-sex couples the same benefits granted to married partners under the Code, such as the right to pension benefits in the case of a spouse’s death and the right to make medical decisions on the spouse’s behalf.  (Aruba Parliament Approves Civil Unions for Same-Sex Couples, CURAÇAO CHRONICLE (Sept. 12, 2016); Steven Wildberger, Aruba Votes To Recognize Same-Sex Unions, PAPER CHASE (Sept.10, 2016); Boek 1 Personen- en familierecht [Book 1: Persons and Family Law], Landsverordening bevattende de tekst van Boek 1 voor een nieuw Burgerlijk Wetboek van Aruba [State Ordinance Containing the Text of Book 1 of a New Civil Code of Aruba], AB 2001 no. 89 (as last amended effective 2013), CENTRAAL WETTENREGISTER (Jan. 13, 2014) (click on pdf icon to view); Boek 4: Erfrecht [Book 4: Succession], Landsverordening bevattende de tekst van Boek 1 voor een nieuw Burgerlijk Wetboek van Aruba, AB 1989 no. GT 100 (as last amended 2013), CENTRAAL WETTENREGISTER (Jan. 13, 2014) (click on pdf icon to view).)

The 21-member unicameral legislature approved the amendment in an 11-5 vote, with four members abstaining. (Aruba Parliament Approves Civil Unions for Same-Sex Couples, supra.)  In the past, same-sex couples would have to marry in the Netherlands and then have their marriage certificate recognized in Aruba under a law that requires recognition of official documents throughout the Kingdom of the Netherlands.  Now, same-sex partners will no longer have to go through this process; while they cannot marry in Aruba, their rights as partners in a civil union will be recognized.  (Id.)  Reportedly, Sint Maarten and Curacao, the other two Caribbean constituent countries of the Kingdom, do not allow same-sex marriage or registered partnerships.  (Id.)

The formalization of relations between people of the same sex has been a sensitive issue in Aruba, which is predominantly Catholic, and debate on the new legislation is reported to have sharply divided the island population. Prior to the passage of the amending law there were large demonstrations over it near the Parliament in the capital city of Oranjestad. (Aruba staat partnerregistratie homo’s toe, REFORMATORISCH DAGBLAD (Sept. 9, 2016).)

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Brazil: Federal Supreme Court Recognizes Dual Paternity

(Sept. 23, 2016) On September 21, 2016, the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal, STF) held that a child’s relationship with one man through socio-affective paternity does not exempt the child’s biological father from paternal responsibility.  A majority of ministers of the STF dismissed an appeal by a biological father from a decision that imposed paternal obligations despite the child’s ties with another father with socio-affective paternity.  (622 – Prevalência da paternidade socioafetiva em detrimento da paternidade biológica [622 – Predominance of Socio-Affective Paternity over Biological Paternity], RE 898060 (Sept. 21, 2016), STF website; Paternidade Socioafetiva Não Exime de Responsabilidade o Pai Biológico, Decide STF [Socio-Affective Paternity Does Not Exempt Responsibility of Biological Father, Decides STF], NOTÍCIAS STF (Sept. 21, 2016)). With the decision, the STF recognized the possible dual paternity of children and held that biological and affective parents have the same obligations. (Id.)

Minister Luiz Fux, who wrote the opinion, highlighted the fact that “in the Civil Code of 1916, the concept of family was focused on marriage, with the ‘hideous distinction’ between legitimate, recognized (legitimados), and illegitimate children, [and] with filiation being based on the rigid presumption of the husband’s paternity.”  (Paternidade Socioafetiva Não Exime de Responsabilidade o Pai Biológico, Decide STF, supra.) According to Fux,

the paradigm [of the Code] was not the affection between family members or biological origin, but only the centrality of marriage. However, with the evolution of family relations and the acceptance of new forms of union, the central axis of the discipline of filiation shifted from the Civil Code to the Federal Constitution. With the Constitution of 1988 a reversal of purpose in the field of civil matters is necessary: the legal rule is replaced to suit the peculiarities and demands of various interpersonal relationships, rather than imposing a static frame based on marriage between a man and a woman. (Id.)


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Pakistan: National Assembly Passes New Cybercrime Law

(Sept. 21, 2016) On August 11, 2016, Pakistan’s lower house, the National Assembly, passed a controversial cybercrime law called the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016. The Senate had unanimously passed the law, with a number of amendments, in July. (Raza Khan, Cyber Crime Bill Passed by NA: 13 Reasons Pakistanis Should Be Worried, DAWN (Aug .11, 2016).) The President of Pakistan gave his assent to the legislation on August 18, 2016. (Archive: Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015-16, BOLO BHI (last visited Sept. 19, 2016).)

According to the Act, the purpose of the legislation is “to prevent unauthorized acts with respect to information systems and provide for related offences as well as mechanisms for their investigation, prosecution, trial and international cooperation … .” (Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (Aug. 11, 2016), Foreword, National Assembly website.)

Crimes Against Information and Data Systems, and Cyber-Terrorism

The Act introduces a range of offenses involving the unauthorized access, transmission, copying, or interference in an information system or data. (Id. §§ 3-5.) Harsher penalties are set for these crimes if they involve information systems or data connected to critical infrastructure. (Id. §§ 6-8.)

The Act also introduces the offense of cyber-terrorism. A cyber-terrorist crime is deemed to have been committed if a crime connected to critical infrastructure is carried out with the intent to commit terrorism. The punishment for such an offense upon conviction is up to a 14-year term of imprisonment or a fine of Rs5 million (about US$47,450), or both. (Id. §10.) The glorification of terrorism-related offenses, hate speech, and the recruitment for or funding and planning of terrorism “through any information system or device” are also punishable crimes under the Act. (Id. §§9, 10A, & 10B.)

The Act also introduces crimes of spamming and of distributing and transmitting malicious code. (Id. §§ 20 & 22.)

Crimes Against Persons via the Internet, Including Criminal Defamation

Section18 (1) of the law essentially criminalizes defamation “through any information system.” The Act prescribes that

Whoever intentionally and publicly exhibits or displays or transmits any information through any information system, which he knows to be false, and intimidates or harms the reputation or privacy of a natural person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine which may extend to one million rupees or with both. (Id. § 18 (1).)

Certain provisions, such as one on “spoofing,” have been particularly controversial, because they might be used to target satirical online content. The spoofing provision stipulates, “[w]hoever with dishonest intention establishes a website or sends any information with a counterfeit source intended to be believed by the recipient or visitor of the website to be an authentic source commits [the offense of] spoofing.” (Id. § 23.) This crime is to be punished upon conviction with up to three years of imprisonment or a fine of Rs500,000 (about US$4,745), or both. (Id.)

Section 19 of the Act, which deals with offenses against the modesty of a natural person or a minor, prohibits, among other acts, superimposing “a photograph of the face of a natural person over any sexually explicit image or video.” (Id. § 19(1)(a).)

Other newly introduced crimes against the person are cyber stalking and producing, distributing, possessing, or procuring online child pornography. (Id. § 19(A).)

Investigative Powers

The powers to investigate crimes set forth in the Act include those of preservation, search and seizure, and retention of data, and also the real time collection and recording of information through a court order or warrant. Section 26 grants the Federal Government the power to establish or designate a law enforcement agency “as the investigation agency for the purposes of investigation of offences under this Act.” (Id.) On September 9, 2016, the Federal Cabinet designated the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as the Investigation Agency under the Act. (Press Release, PR No. 66, Meeting of the Federal Cabinet Islamabad: September 9, 2016 (Sept. 9, 2016), Press Information Department website.)

Section 34 of the Act grants the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority the power to

remove or block or issue directions for removal or blocking of access to an [sic] information through any information system if it considers it necessary in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court or commission of or incitement to an offence under this Act.  (Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, § 34(1).)

Reaction to the Act

Human rights and free speech activists are worried that many of the provisions of the Act are framed in vague terms that “could lead to curtailment of free speech and unfair prosecutions.” (Mehreen Zahra-Malik, Pakistan Passes Controversial Cyber-Crime Law, REUTERS (Aug 12, 2016).) Nighat Daad, the founder of the Digital Rights Foundation, was quoted as stating that “[t]he overly broad language used in the bill ensures that innocent and ignorant Pakistani citizens, unaware of the ramifications of what the bill entails, can be ensnared and find themselves subject to very harsh penalties.” (Id.)

Members of opposition political parties have also expressed concern about the potential for misuse of the Act by government authorities and the possibility that it may stifle political debate online.(Vasudevan Sridharan, Pakistan Passes ‘Draconian’ Cybercrime Law Threatening Civil Liberties, INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES (Aug .11, 2016).) The Minister of State for Information Technology & Telecom, Anusha Rehman, told Parliament, however, that “[c]riticism regarding the bill is baseless as proposed amendments have been included. Non-governmental organisations and civil society representatives are opposing the bill due to a certain agenda.” (Id.)

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