THE poor are protected from paying exorbitant fines including maintenance, debt or taxes if they are unable to do so under the Right to Personal Liberty provision in the draft constitution.
Attorney-General and Minister for Electoral Reform, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum explained this during the constitution consultations at the Tanoa International Hotel in Lautoka on Tuesday.
The A-G cited sub-section 2 of the draft constitution that states that it "does not permit a court to make an order depriving a person of personal liberty on the ground of failure to pay maintenance or a debt or tax, unless the court considers that the person has wilfully refused to pay despite having the means to".
"This is very important because a lot of people did not understand this," Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
"For example, if I'm driving along and the LTA fines me $800 but I'm earning maybe $80 a week. The judge or the magistrate can't expect me to pay $800. Especially in the case where I have a wife and dependents and I am the sole breadwinner and don't have the means.
"If you don't have the means to pay, then the court can't send you to jail. The court may say you can pay $3 a week or something.
"That is very very important because otherwise, you'll have all the poor people in prison and we don't want that. So that's there to protect that particular provision."
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also explained that the Right to Personal Liberty could not be used by any person convicted of a crime by a court of law.
"This is again directly borrowed from the 1997 constitution. Basically, it talks about the fact that your personal liberty cannot be taken away unless, for example, there is a court order that says you need to go to jail."