What you need to know:
- The petitioners had argued that there was no guarantee that personal data would not be hijacked for illegal use.
- Section 31 of the the Data Protection Act requires that data processing be preceded by a data protection impact assessment to mitigate any risks.
A High Court ruling declaring the Huduma Namba registration illegal is a major setback for the government, considering the huge amount of resources spent. This is a crucial intervention by the court, which, though costly, having consumed Sh10.6 billion, emphasises the need to do things properly and legally. The petitioners had argued that there was no guarantee that personal data would not be hijacked for illegal use.
This landmark ruling follows another key decision in which both the High Court and the Court of Appeal, also declared as null and void the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) to amend the Constitution. On May 23, a special five-judge High Court bench had unanimously declared the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020 unconstitutional. The proponents had hoped to change the supreme law of the land and create additional top executive positions for leaders to ease rivalry.
Attorney-General Paul Kihara Kariuki, as the chief legal adviser to the government, has appealed against the decision. However, he has yet again been left with egg on his face.
On Thursday, the High Court declared the Huduma Namba rollout illegal for violating the Data Protection Act, 2019. Section 31 of the Act requires that data processing be preceded by a data protection impact assessment to mitigate any risks. The Act is meant to safeguard privacy. Judge Jairus Ngaah found that the assessment was not done before the registration started and the cards were issued. However, he did not throw out the whole thing, granting a window for the process to be rectified.
While some people have tried to politicise the matter, claiming that the judges seem to have a vendetta against President Uhuru Kenyatta, the decisions are legally sound. They speak to the need to strictly follow the right procedure and ensure the legality of decisions that affect the people. These costly reversals can be avoided through meticulous processes that strictly follow all the legal procedures.