The former President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) said Section 4 of the Constitution lists several fundamental rights.
Among them is, “the right of the individual to respect for his private and family life.” “I think the effect of that provision is to provide for a right to privacy,” de la Bastide told Newsday.
“The Constitution does provide for a right to privacy the question is how is that defined. What are its limits? How does it reconcile with the right to freedom of expression? Obviously there has to be some balance.” The jurist’s comments came one day after Attorney General Faris Al Rawi told the Senate that there was no enshrined right to privacy per se and that the courts have held so in several rulings. Al Rawi said so as he piloted legislation to widen the powers of the Strategic Services Agency (SSA), saying the legislation did not require a special majority.
The former Chief Justice said strictly speaking there is no mention of the right to privacy, but the provisions clearly have the intention of formulating such a right.
“Respect for private life looks very much like respect for privacy and that is hardly distinguishable from the right to privacy,” the former Chief Justice said. “All the rights stated demand respect. The question is what is the scope of that right.” De la Bastide further stated, “I have not read the reasoning of those who have held that there is no right to privacy. But I don’t think that, even on a strict construction of the words of the Constitution, that we can come to another conclusion.
It matters not that the right is couched in terms of ‘respect for’.” He said those words may have been inserted for reasons of language.
“If you don’t put in ‘respect for’ it becomes a bit awkward. I don’t think that putting in ‘respect for’ takes away from the impact of the provision,” the former Chief Justice said.
De la Bastide was a member of the Wooding Commission which in 1974 produced a report. That document alludes to a “right to privacy”, including one passage which discusses the complexity of rights.
“The right of privacy, the right to freedom of thought and expression, the right to freedom of conscience and belief, the right to practise one’s profession - defining precise areas of limitation is more difficult because circumstances are infinite and the law is still in the process of development,” the report states.