An opposition senator has called the government “careless and irresponsible” in the creation of the covid19 regulations. She is also calling for an immediate review of the measures.
In a statement, Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial welcomed the decision of the High Court on Friday which declared that the covid19 regulations which make it a criminal offence to breach the guidelines for places of worship were illegal.
In a ruling on Friday, Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh granted that one declaration to Pundit Satyanand Maharaj but dismissed two constitutional claims which challenged the validity of the regulations.
The judge held that the regulations were lawful under the public health ordinance.
Boodoosingh said the public health regulations to prevent the spread of infectious and dangerous diseases “fall within a narrow compass of exceptional laws which permit a minister leeway to restrict certain rights and freedoms under the Constitution.”
Boodoosingh also suggested there be some form of parliamentary oversight of the regulations, urging the Attorney General to consider “at minimum, some form of appropriate Parliament scrutiny for regulations made by the executive where normal everyday freedoms are affected, as has occurred here.”
Lutchmedial accused the Government of using the covid19 pandemic to curtail the rights of citizens.
Lutchmedial said, “The Government sought to criminalise the non-adherence to guidelines.
“The UNC welcomes the judgement and the fundamental guidance which it provides in relation to the role and function of the Parliament, particularly where the rights of citizens are being curtailed.
“The Government has acted irresponsibly in creating regulations that leave room for arbitrariness and the potential for abuse by simply referencing ‘guidelines’ and leaving a vast amount of room for interpretation
She said citizens were left bewildered to interpret and comply with the law.
Lutchmedial said, “The opposition calls upon the government to immediately review the public health regulations and remove all references to ‘guidelines’ as they pertain to educational institutions, places of worship, business places and the wearing of face masks, among other things.
“This slipshod approach to law making without Parliamentary oversight has created doubt both in the minds of the public and members of the protective services who have the unfortunate task of enforcing poorly conceptualised laws. The court was therefore duty bound to strike it down.”
She accused the government of refusing to debate the regulations in parliament, despite numerous calls by senators and MPs to do such.
“Whilst we accept that restrictions are necessary, we condemn this lack of transparency and accountability in making regulations which impact on the fundamental rights of citizens. It is wrong in principle for such far reaching laws to be passed without any input from the duly elected representatives,” Lutchmedial said.
She added that this failure has left the public to wonder if it was “different strokes for different folks” where law enforcement was concerned.
In his decision, Boodoosingh said, “A guideline cannot be a mandatory requirement. It may be seen as something being strongly urged; it is there for assistance; it is there to encourage a particular kind of conduct. But it is not prohibited with the sanction of a punishment and not one of imprisonment as is the case here.
“The risk is that even if there may not be prosecutions for violations like this, it makes someone potentially liable at the hands of a zealous police officer.
“It makes the situation confusing for a police officer to discern what constitutes an offence and what does not. It can lead to confusion or uncertainty among citizens about what is being urged and what is prohibited.”