KINGSTON, Jamaica, CMC – The Jamaican government says it will be reviewing a ruling handed down on Friday by the Supreme Court on aspects of the 2017 National Identification and Registration Act (NIDS).
The Court ruled that the NIDS act is null and void.
Government respectful of ruling
“The Government is respectful of the court’s ruling and will spend some time carefully reviewing the judgement, after which a more fulsome response will be forthcoming,” said a government statement issued shortly after the ruling.
The Government also thanked the full court panel comprising of Chief Justice Bryan Sykes, Justice David Batts and Justice Lisa Palmer Hamilton for their considered judgment.
Challenged by PNP
The challenge to the Act was brought by the General Secretary of the main opposition People’s National Party (PNP) Julian Robinson who argued that certain provisions of the law infringe some of his Constitutional rights.
No legal effects
In delivering the judgment, Sykes said the law has no legal effects.
“Having declared some some of the provisions in violation of the charter, we are of the view that what was left could not stand because – it was so bound up with the other provisions, that there was no way it could survive by itself and the other was – that what was left would still be in violation of the constitution. We were of the view that what was left, could not stand by itself, we are of the view that the National Identification Act be declared null and void and of no legal effect…. that is the decision of the court.”
The full court panel ruled that aspects of the NIDS Act were in violation of the right to privacy.
NIDS impacts information privacy
The Chief Justice also said the collection of biometric data impacts information privacy.
“So the legislation here in Jamaica makes provision here in some instances for iris scans, the literature tells us that you can glean information about a persons state of health, from an iris scan, you can determine what illness they are suffering from and other things that are very personal and private to them. So it’s not simply at matter of – we are just collecting biometric information ….so hence the question of information privacy looms large in our considerations.”
The NIDS bill was passed in November 2017 amidst much protestations and an eventual walkout by PNP Senators who also argued that it was being rushed through parliament.
It was passed with more than 200 amendments.
Meanwhile in responding to the ruling, the PNP’s General Secretary said the court ruling is a wake up call for Parliamentarians to ensure that laws passed are consistent with the charter of rights.He added that the ruling underscores the importance of acknowledging the right to privacy.