Attorneys for the Opposition PNP this afternoon argued before the Constitutional Court that the government’s landmark National Identification System, NIDS Act, violates eight of the country’s 25 fundamental rights and freedoms.
Queen’s Counsel Michael Hylton made the argument this afternoon before the three Judges hearing the case. But the government’s lawyer, Attorney General, Queen’s Counsel Marlene Malahoo-Forte, is arguing that the NIDS is lawful and the challenge by the PNP is premature.
Mr. Hylton argued that the NIDS Act violates the rights of Jamaicans not to be discriminated against because it makes mandatory the need for an ID card before a citizen is able to access certain government services. He argued that the NIDS in its current form could mean that people who do not enroll in the programme may be deprived of healthcare.
He told the Constitutional Court that it’s the view of the attorneys for the PNP that the NIDS infringes on various rights. He says these rights include the right to security of the person, equality before the law, the right to a passport and the right to privacy.
Mr. Hylton told the Court that regulations for NIDS have not yet been finalized but could make worse the alleged breaches. But Attorney General Malahoo Forte, who’s leading the Government’s defense of its landmark legislation, rejected Mr. Hylton’s argument that the NIDS could prevent some Jamaicans accessing essential services.
Mrs. Malahoo Forte argued that the upcoming NIDS regulations and protocol may ameliorate some of the concerns raised by lawyers for the PNP.
The Attorney General noted that section 41-three of the NIDS exempts people facing threat to health and life from being mandated to produce the proposed national ID.
Mrs. Malahoo Forte told the Constitutional Court that the challenge by the PNP is premature because neither the NIDS law nor the regulations have yet been enacted or put into operation.
Malahoo Forte argued that the challenge is therefore non-justiciable or has not been appropriately placed before the Court.
The Attorney General is to resume her submissions tomorrow morning at 10:00 when the hearing enters its second day. The hearing is scheduled to end on Wednesday.
Chief Justice Bryan Sykes along with Justices David Batts and Lisa Palmer Hamilton are hearing the NIDS case.
Earlier in the proceedings today, Mr. Hylton noted a ruling last month by the Supreme Court in India which like Jamaica is part of the commonwealth.
After hearing extensive arguments about surveillance and privacy concerns, the Supreme Court in India ruled that the controversial Indian national ID, referred to as the Aadhaar card project, is constitutional.
Mr. Hylton told the panel of Judges in Jamaica’s Constitutional Court today that both he and lawyers for the Government agree that the decision of the Indian Supreme Court is relevant to the NIDS challenge. But he says the lawyers for the PNP disagree with the approach taken to the decision which was arrived at by the Supreme Court in India.