Adapting To The Times

If a crime has been committed, let the accused be tried. If no crime has been committed, then there is no basis for circumventing constitutional freedoms unless the nation itself is threatened.

Proponents of the Internal Security Act justify their viewpoint by reference to the need for law to enable the authorities to deal with threats to national security. In principle, there is nothing objectionable with that position. As I explain below, the Federal Constitution allows for the enacting of laws to that end.

The shape these laws take, however, depends on the nature of the threat that is sort to be addressed and the measures needed for that purpose. These features inform any discussion concerning the relevance, if at all, of laws that allow for detention without trial under our constitutional framework.

There is no general power in Parliament to validly enact laws that contravene the fundamental liberties guaranteed under the Constitution. That is why the Criminal Procedure Code has crystallized in the form it has, obliging the police to produce an arrested person before a magistrate within twenty-four hours of arrest. If the police want to keep that person in custody without charging him or her for a further period of time to allow for further investigation, they have to convince a magistrate of the need for this extension.