Friday 24 May, 2019

NIDS court battle begins

Julian Robinson

Julian Robinson

The Supreme Court will on Monday begin hearing the application brought by the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) challenging the constitutionality of some sections of the National Identification System (NIDS) Act.

In June, the court had set aside three days for the hearing, from Monday until Wednesday, October 24.

In a statement on the weekend, the PNP informed that its legal team is being headed by noted Queens Counsel, Michael Hylton. He is being supported by Senator Donna Scott Mottley, Michael Vaccianna and Jennifer Housen. The team is being instructed by the firm Paulwell, Frazer Binns.

According to the PNP, the court action is being brought by the party’s General Secretary, Julian Robinson, on behalf of himself, his constituents and the members of the party for breaching citizens’ constitutional rights.

"The Opposition has been consistent in its support for a national identification system which respects the rights of all law-abiding citizens but is deeply concerned with the haste of the passage of the Act which has left several of its provisions wholly inadequate and unlawful.

“The Opposition feels compelled to pursue the case, and points not only to the necessity to safeguard the constitutional rights…but also the government's failure to discharge its burden in proving that abrogating these fundamental rights of Jamaican citizens, is demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society,” Robinson said.

For her part, Scott-Mottley is taking issue with the huge fines that will be imposed on individuals who fail to register.

“What is clear from the Act, is that a Jamaican, or any person who has legally made Jamaica their home, could well find him or herself at great disadvantage under the Act, compared to someone who is not a citizen of Jamaica, or have ever even lived in Jamaica. On these bases alone, it is critical that this matter is ventilated in our highest court,” Scott-Mottley said.

The PNP had insisted that the Bill be placed before a joint select committee of the parliament to allow various interest groups to make submissions and for the controversial matters to be fully ventilated but was denied.

The PNP has also charged that the law, which forces all Jamaicans to register in order to access some Government services and which provides a single means of identification, infringes on citizens’ right to privacy, right to a passport, and an individual's right to due process.

The PNP had argued that the matter was being pushed through with undue haste by the Government because of a $9 billion loan from the Inter-American Development Bank.

It was passed in November 2017 amidst much protestations and an eventual walkout by Opposition Senators who, among other things, argued that the bill was being rushed through the parliament. It was passed with more than 200 amendments.

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