Supreme Court declares Jamaica Digital ID unconstitutional

The Supreme Court of Jamaica has found Jamaica’s national identification system in violation of the constitution and by unanimous decision declared the entire National Identification and Registration Act (NIRA) void.  In a judgement delivered on 12 April, the court found that the mandatory requirement of biometric identification abrogated the right to privacy.

NIRA was enacted in December 2017 and was yet to be operationalised. The law provided for establishment of a central databank that would consolidate identity and demographic information of persons in Jamaica. It had made it a criminal offence for a person not to register under the new law.

The court reviewed aspects of the impugned Act alongside Jamaica’s constitutional history and concluded that migration to digital identification was a significant change to Jamaican society. The new system, they found, went beyond identification of persons to a repository of biographical information that could potentially serve as digital surveillance.

The case had been instituted by a Member of Parliament and People’s National Party (PNP) General Secretary Julian Robinson.