The Miscellaneous Amendments Bill, which was passed in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, will allow anyone with outstanding traffic tickets to pay only half the fine in an attempt to clear the backlog of traffic matters from the courts.
In piloting the bill, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said the Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic Act was one of the 17 pieces of legislation to be amended under the bill. This, he said, will rid the courts of some 60,000 matters now clogging the system.
“We are ready to go live with the demerit point system, the Cabinet has temporarily delayed that decision. We have recognised that there is approximately 60,000-80,000 traffic matters in courts. We therefore propose a Section 50 of the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act and are now offering a 50 per cent sale on old tickets.”
In what he described as a “judicial revolution”, the aim is to reduce the case-load for magistrates from 146,000 to 7,500 annually. In keeping with magistrates, Al-Rawi told the Parliament that the proposed amendment to the Magistrates’ Protection Act will allow magistrates to operate without “trembling fingers.”
He said magistrates will also have the same protection as judges not to be sued in their personal capacity for their rulings. This, he said, is part of the Government’s plan to revolutionise the criminal justice system which will allow magistrates to address more serious matters and, as such, will need them to be protected.
The Miscellaneous Amendments Bill also amends several financial acts, including the Central Bank Act, the Securities Act, Financial Intelligence Act, Companies Act and the Income Tax Act.
Under the Securities Act, the proposal will be to increase the fine to up to $5 million for breaches of the law. It will also allow for disgorgement of profits gained from breaches of the law.
Al-Rawi added that part of the amendments to the financial acts will allow institutions to divulge information to law enforcement officers during investigations, without them being accused of breaching confidentiality.
Under the Companies Act, his proposal will be to mandate each company to issue shares with 14 days of it being registered and that company be further mandated to disclose who are shareholders within two weeks. For existing companies, the proposal is that they will be given six months to do likewise. This he said will reveal those who have interest in certain companies and are not disclosing it.
In response to his proposals, Caroni East MP Ganga Singh said the disclosure by banks of certain information could be equalled to “coercion” to breach confidentiality. He added that currently there is law that will allow for that called the Production Order.
Regarding the Magistrates’ Protection Act, Singh said magistrates are not infallible and can err. He said the Constitution will need amending if that is allowed since the amendment will mean that citizens will not be allowed to challenge a magistrate’s decision.
“What about redress and judicial reviews,” he asked of Al-Rawi. He further groused that there were cases of bias levelled against magistrates and advised that the AG look at similar laws passed in Jamaica.
In response, Al-Rawi said the amendment to that law will not interfere with the Constitution. There is no need to explicitly state there will still be a right to appeal, he said, since the overarching law to address such is not going to be touched.