Last year, the Kenyan government was sued by the Nubian Rights Forum and Kenya Human Rights Commission over the National Integrated Identity Management System (Huduma Namba) aimed at digitizing and centralizing important records of citizens and foreigners in Kenya.
The government had declared that every individual resident shall have a mandatory obligation to present Huduma Namba in order to be issued with basic public services including getting a passport, driving license, registration of mobile number, registration as a voter, pay tax, transact in financial markets among others. But this directive raised many questions about the constitutionality of Huduma Namba as there is little information in the public domain particularly on matters of data protection, right to dignity, public participation, access to information among others.
In their petition, the human rights groups stated that Huduma Namba is an impugned act, which was passed without public participation despite the constitution binding all state organs & officers, including Parliament & the Executive to conduct public participation.
During a court hearing in October, the petitioners asked the court to declare Huduma Namba’s constitutionally illegal, because of violation of privacy, during Huduma Namba registration as the law allowed for the administrators to collect DNA & GPS without specifying the purpose or use of that information. The complainants urged the court to freeze the use of Huduma Namba until the statutory framework and regulatory institutions are set-ups to prevent the use of the data collected until the necessary legislation is passed.
A three-judge bench comprising justices Pauline Nyamweya, Mumbi Ngugi and Weldon Korir has today ruled that the introduction of Huduma Namba was lawful, but its implementation must be done under a comprehensive regulatory framework. The court also declared the sub-sections that required collection of DNA and GPS information as null and void, noting that they were in conflict with the Constitution
“Collection of DNA & GPS for purposes of identification is intrusive and unnecessary to the extent it is not authorized by anchoring legislation is unconstitutional,” ruled the court.
On matters of public participation, they mentioned that there was public participation before the govt rolled out the program.