Sun, Jun 05, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Wrong tack taken on ID card law

By Wen-chih Lin林文志

Starting July 1, people can apply for new national identification cards. According to Article 8 of the Household Registration Law, (戶籍法) all citizens over the age of 14 must submit a full set of fingerprints when applying for an ID card.

In recent weeks, this article has generated heated debate, and many human rights groups have criticized it for being unconstitutional.

According to the Law of Interpretation Procedure For Grand Justices (司法院大法官審理案件法), the approval of one-third of the legislators is required to file an application for a constitutional interpretation. Although some Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators have pressured the Council of Grand Justices demanding that it interpret this case, the council will probably reject the request by these legislators due to its lack of legal standing.

According to the principles established by Western democracies, the judiciary has the responsibility of assessing the constitutionality of a law. The Constitution is the fundamental law of the country, and the Legislative Yuan derives its powers from the Constitution.

It is therefore presumed that the legislature will not purposely enact a law that could violate the principles of the Constitution. The Household Registration Law has long existed, so if there is still concern that it might be unconstitutional, then the legislators should take it upon themselves to amend it, rather than turning to the grand justices for help right before a stipulation of the law comes into effect.

The Executive Yuan that is responsible for executing the law. Based on the principle of parity of authority and responsibility, if the Executive Yuan finds it difficult to implement the law passed by the legislature, then it can, according to Additional Article 3 of the Constitution, propose a veto of this legislation. If the Executive Yuan does not adopt this method to solve the dispute, then we can conclude that the law is constitutional, and that there should be no difficulty in implementing it.

Moreover, the three prerequisites for a constitutional interpretation, stipulated in paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Law of Interpretation Procedure For Grand Justices, (司法院大法官審理案件法) state that the plaintiff (the person who applies for a constitutional interpretation) must possess legal standing. In other words, a citizen must have been wronged under the law to become a plaintiff.

The controversy will not be resolved until people who feel their interests have been compromised by the law request a constitutional interpretation themselves. That is, only people who believe that the government's proposal to collect fingerprints is directly infringing upon their rights can file a lawsuit against the government or request a constitutional interpretation of the law.

Since such legal standing is required when applying for a constitutional interpretation, the DPP legislators should instead propose amending the law. After all, since their old ID cards can be used until next year, there is still plenty of time.

Wen-chih Lin is a doctoral candidate in the political science department at National Taiwan Normal University.

TRANSLATED BY DANIEL CHENG

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