Handwritten ledgers, daily books, cashbooks and other documents in banking transactions are almost over, as digitalisation has brought significant change in the banking activities and services.
The banking transaction and other activities are now preserved electronically in devices instead of books of the old system. However, the legal aspects related to the banking transaction are still now dealt with through the 130-year old ‘Bankers’ Books Evidence Act. The old law was formulated during the British era in 1891.
Many things in the 130-year old law are not consistent with the present-day situation. A fresh and updated law is needed following the massive change in the banking sector triggered by technological advancement.
Against this backdrop, the government has designed a fresh law aiming to accommodate new banking products and services as well as to make the law time befitting.
An official of the Finance Ministry said that the banks are now working digitally which was not mentioned in the old law and the proposed law has stated the updated issues clearly.
‘The Bankers’ Book Evidence Bill, 2021’ has already been placed in the Parliament to replace the old ‘Bankers’ Book Evidence Act, 1891’. Later, it was sent to the respective parliamentary standing committee for further scrutiny. The parliamentary watchdog has already scrutinised the draft of the law and submitted its report.
‘The Bankers’ Book Evidence Bill, 2021’ is now scheduled for placing in the Parliament for passage. The bill is in the list for placing in the Parliament on Saturday (November 27), said KM Abdus Salam, secretary to the Parliament Secretariat.
The Financial Institutions Division of the Finance Ministry prepared the draft of the fresh law.
An official of the division said that this law would be a new one as the ground reality has changed a lot given the reality of 1891. The new law will focus not only on present time, but also on future changes in the financial products, he added.
‘The Bankers’ Book Evidence Bill, 2021’ defines the digitally recorded documents as such evidence. It has taken into account the preservation of information by banks digitally. This means the digitally-recorded information would be considered as prima facie evidence.
The proposed law also defines the jurisdiction of the court for any bank-related information, which is totally prohibited in the old one. It suggests making information public except those of private ones after taking permission from the court and fixing the authorities concerned who can do that.
The Bankers’ Book Evidence Act, 2021 states some offences, punishments and trial to prevent unauthorised information.
After enactment of the law, the court may call records pertaining to the new products and services along with traditional books as legal documents. For example, the banking accounts maintenance tools will be admissible by the court as legal documents.
The proposed law identified crimes and spelt out the punishment and trial system. If found guilty of publishing information illegally, a person would face jail terms of at least three years or fined Tk 10 lakh, or both. This would help ensure the secrecy of information. The law has identified crimes as cognisable, non-bailable and compoundable.