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Constitutional challenge filed against DRMA curfew orders

Attorney Clyde Williams
 
A constitutional claim has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the curfew orders which were imposed in 2021 and this year under the amended Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA).
 
The orders were imposed as part of COVID-19 containment measures.
 
The claim was filed on Thursday on behalf of two women who were charged with breaching the curfew orders.
 
The women took their cases to the Norman Manley Law School Legal Aid Clinic.
 
Attorney Clyde Williams, who is representing the claimants, is awaiting a date for a hearing.           
 
Mr. Williams told Radio Jamaica News that the women want the Supreme Court to declare that the orders to remain at home on specified days, thereby altering the section of the Charter of Rights relating to freedom of movement, are void.
 
He argued that the passage of the Disaster Risk Management Act in the House of Representatives was not in accordance with the six months stipulated in Section 49 of the Constitution. 
 
"You must rest it down for three months when you bring it first in the House, and then you must make it rest for another three months still in the House before you can vote on it," he explained. 
 
After this six-month period, both the House of Representatives and the Senate must vote separtely, each seeking a two-thirds majority for the law to be passed. 
 
Mr. Williams contended that a check of Hansard, which is the official record of court, reveals these procedures were not followed in altering the right to freedom of movement, which he pointed out is an entrenched provision. 
 
Section 49 of the Constitution also required that the bill be approved by a majority of the electorate.
 
Debate on the Disaster Risk Management Act started in the House of  Representatives in July 2014.
 
The bill was voted on in October that year and passed.
 
After its passage through the Senate, the bill became law in February 2015.
 
Mr. Williams said his clients are not asking for the Disaster Risk Management Act to be struck down. 
 
"We're saying if the DRMA is to lawfully achieve these ends of altering certain entrenched provisions, and in this case, the right to freedom, it must have been passed in accordance with certain procedures," he declared.   
 


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