A panel comprising Chief Justice Bryan Sykes, Justice David Batts and Justice Lisa Palmer Hamilton ruled that the the mandatory requirement of NIDS for persons to submit biometric information is a violation of the right to privacy, which is guranteed by the Constitution.
The chief justice said it was the court's decision for the law to be struck down in its entirety because those aspects which did not infringe on the Constitutional rights of citizens were not enough to stand alone.
“Having declared some of the provisions in violation of the charter, we are of the view that what was left could not stand because...it 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 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. Robinson contended that various sections of the act are unconstitutional, and operate as violations to the rights of the citizens of Jamaica.
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.
In the meantime, PNP General Secretary Julian Robinson said the court ruling was 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 Chief Justice 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.
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