Government to review Supreme Court decision on NIDS

Chief Justice Bryan Sykes and PNP General Secretary Julian Robinson


The Government has suffered a major blow after the Supreme Court on Friday morning struck down the National Identification Act (NIDS).

A panel comprising Chief Justice Bryan Sykes, Justice David Batts and Justice Lisa Palmer Hamilton ruled that the NIDS Act is null and void.

The challenge to the Act was brought by PNP General Secretary Julian Robinson, who argued that certain provisions of the law infringe some of his Constitutional rights.

In delivering the judgment, Chief Justice Brian Sykes said the law has no legal effects.

“Having declared some of the provisions in violation of the charter, we are of the view that what was left could not stand was so bound up with the other provisions that there is no way it could survive by itself... and the other route was that what was left would still be in violation of the constitution... And so we are of the view that the National Identification and Registration Act is to be declared null and void and of no legal effect.”

The full court panel ruled that aspects of the NIDS Act were in violation of the right to privacy.

The Chief Justice said the collection of biometric data would impact information privacy.

“So the legislation here in Jamaica makes provision in some instances for iris scans. The literature tells us that you can glean information about a person's state of health from an iris scan, you can determine almost what illness they are suffering, what is the likely medication they are on, and other things that are very personal and private to them. So it is not just simply at matter of we are just collecting biometric information to be used for identification; there are other implications of that, so hence the question of informational privacy loomed large in our considerations,” he noted. 

He added that the protections under the Act for the storage and safety of information while in the possession of the State were inadequate and is therefore a violation of the right to privacy.

Justice Sykes added that the mandatory requirement of the NIDS Act deprives the individual of choice. 
He argued that an individual who refuses to participate in NIDS is at risk of criminal prosecution and will have a conviction although it would not be recorded.
Government to review
The Government has said it will review the decision of the court.
In a statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister, the Government said it will spend time carefully reviewing the judgment, after which a fulsome response will be issued.


A wake up call

PNP General Secretary Julian Robinson 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.

The NIDS bill was passed in November 2017 amidst much protestations and an eventual walkout by Opposition Senators who, among other things, argued that it was being rushed through Parliament.
It was passed with 168 amendments.
Implementation of the NIDS was slated to begin next year.
The National Identification System was intended to provide a comprehensive and secure structure to enable the capture and storage of identity information for all Jamaicans.
Each citizen would be provided with a nine-digit National Identification Number which they will have for life.



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