Jamaica’s Court declares freestanding constitutional right to informational privacy in Robinson v Attorney General

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The Jamaican Constitutional Court, in a decision by a panel of 3-judges, recently struck down an entire statute: the National Identification and Registration Act 2017 (“NIDS“).

NIDS, as originally passed, was being implemented with a view to making registration in a national ID database mandatory for Jamaicans. The complainant in the case had argued that NIDS, as framed, breached his constitutional rights.

The case is interesting because the Jamaican Constitution’s Bill of Rights does not include an express, broad-based right to privacy and, certainly not informational privacy. In striking down NIDS, the Court took a weaving path that required an assessment of the degree to which the Jamaican Constitution provided a basis for protecting the right to privacy, despite this seeming lacuna.

The Constitutional Court reviewed prior case law from throughout the Commonwealth on the question of the nature and essence of the amorphous notion of a ‘right to privacy’ and what it meant in a constitutional context. Naturally, their assessment included reference to the well-heralded Indian Supreme Court decision in Puttaswamy vs. Union of India.

The conclusion:  given the necessity of the right to privacy as a precursor to the enjoyment of the other rights in the Jamaican Constitution, a general right to privacy must be read into the Jamaican Constitution.

A copy of the Robinson v Attorney General case can be found here.