Constitutional Court dismisses argument that NIDS challenge was premature

Chief Justice Bryan Sykes, Donna Scott Mottley, Julian Robinson and Dr. Paul Ashley
The Constitutional Court has disagreed with Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte's submission that the constitutional challenge of the National Identification and Registration Act, more commonly called the NIDS law, was premature because it was not yet in effect.
The Court affirmed that the charter of rights makes provision for any litigant to seek a constitutional remedy before a violation occurs. 
"All the legislative steps had been gone through. It was, on the face of it, passed according to the requisite Parliamentary procedure. The bill became an Act when it received the Governor General's assent, just that it had not yet been brought into force. It's what we would call an appointed day statute, which will come into force at any point," Chief Justice Bryan Sykes, delivering the judgment on behalf of the court on Friday, explained.  
The Constitutional Court on Friday morning struck down the National Identification and Registration Act, calling it null and void due infringements on privacy as well as an individual's right to choice.
The challenge to the Act was brought by People's National Party General Secretary Julian Robinson who had argued that certain provisions of the law infringe some of his constitutional rights.
A member of the legal team representing Mr. Robinson, attorney Donna Scott Mottley, contended that while the National Identification System can be beneficial to Jamaica, the NIDS law was flawed and would impair the rights of citizens.
"It was Lord Diplock who once said that good intentions cannot permit you to breach the constitution, and we will not allow as Opposition that the constitution be breached and we have to commit also that when we become the government, we also abide by that," she said following the ruling. 
Mr. Robinson said the flaws in the NIDS were a result of the Government acting too hastily to implement it. 
"At all stages of the game we encouraged, we persuaded, we asked the government to refer the legislation to a joint select committee so that it could benefit from the input from Jamaicans here, abroad and subject matter experts. The government refused to accede to those requests and as such, we are here today," he insisted.
Attorney General must go 
Political commentator Dr. Paul Ashley has criticised Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte in the wake of the NIDS ruling, arguing that this incident is the latest in a "series of legal foul ups" on her part. 
Dr. Ashley has suggested that Mrs Malahoo Forte tender her resignation for her role in proffering the NIDS law and for offering "bad advice" to the government. 
Court praised 
Meanwhile, the Advocates Association of Jamaica has congratulated the judicial services for Friday's historic broadcasting of the Constitutional Court's decision on the NIDS.
In a release Friday afternoon, President of the Association Leonard Green said this unprecedented approach to demystifying legal concepts will go a far way towards engaging Jamaicans in an important process that will impact their daily lives.
He said the timely manner in which the ruling was handed down augurs well for the Chief Justice's promise to improve court services.

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