Sun, Jul 03, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Fingerprinting needs new law: justice

OBSTACLE Implying that the government's national fingerprint database plans are not constitutional, a grand justice suggested that a new law be enacted to make it so

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER WITH CNA

The Ministry of the Interior wants to see a new law to settle the controversy over whether to establish a national fingerprint database, Vice Minister Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) said yesterday in response to a suggestion put forth by a grand justice on Friday.

According to Chinese-language newspaper reports, Lin Tzu-yi (林子儀), a grand justice, made the suggestion in a meeting convened by the Council of Grand Justices while it mulled a constitutional interpretation of the controversial fingerprinting issue last week.

Lin's suggestion was echoed by other participants Chen Hung-ta (陳宏達), Wellington Ku (顧立雄), and Su Yiu-chen (蘇友辰), lawyers from an association seeking to protect the victims of crime.

"It's a possible solution to settle the dispute via enacting proper laws," Chien said in an interview, adding that "the need to enact new laws implies that the fingerprinting provision in the Household Registration Law (戶籍法) would be unconstitutional."

The constitutional interpretation came in the wake of the government's controversial policy for compulsory fingerprinting for national identity cards, on the legal basis of Article Eight of the Household Registration Law.

The article stipulates that people claiming new national identification cards must submit their fingerprints, which critics say the provision encroaches on human rights.

The program, which was scheduled to begin Friday, was halted on June 13 due to the Council of Grand Justices' "temporary injunction" against the initiative, which will last until a constitutional interpretation is rendered.

The council's decision was made in response to a petition filed by Democratic Progressive Party Legislators on May 31 and backed by a wide coalition of over 100 human rights, legal and civic reform and social groups.

The constitutional court is set to open hearings on July 27 to hear oral arguments from representatives of the administrative and legislative branches. The review of relevant information needed to give a constitutional interpretation took place at a meeting held last week.

"The problem that remains is the constitutionality of the provision. If legislation supporting the provision is passed and is constitutional, then Article Eight of the Household Registration should be constitutional as well," Chien said.

Chien also reiterated the importance of the fingerprinting policy, claiming that people should not oppose it just because there is a possibility that the fingerprint data could be leaked.

"No such problem has ever occurred at the Criminal Investigation Bureau, where some 9.24 million fingerprint files are kept," Chien said.

In accordance with the current law, fingerprints would be put on record, but not used by law enforcment, Chien said. "The inefficient regulations surrounding the purpose of the a national fingerprint database need to be resolved by the proper law."

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