Top FM reported that the Minister of Technology, Communication and Innovation said in a press conference that it is nowhere stipulated in the law that all persons need to have their identity card. I watched an extract of the video when the article was shared on Facebook.
The Minister within less than a minute mentioned two things that would contradict each other. He first says that it is not stipulated in the law that every person should have his/her identity card, and then goes on to say that the law says everyone should have an identity card.
L'express reported the Minister saying that no one shall be arrested or prosecuted if the person does not have the biometric id card after 31 March 2017. At the end of the four minutes video the Minister is heard saying that it is nowhere stipulated in the law that if on the 1st of April a person does not have the biometric identity card police would arrest the person and he/she could be jailed or required to pay a fine of Rs 100, 000.
Well, in fact, Section 10A of the Mauritius NIC Act contains transitional provisions that stipulate the following:
(1) Subject to subsection (2), every holder of an existing identity card shall, within 12 months from 16 September 2013 or from such other period as may be prescribed, apply for a new identity card at any place designated by the Registrar.
The validity of the old identity card has been extended several times which in turn extended the period of 12 months that is mentioned above. After the grace period of the identity card conversion, section 10A(3) would have been effective.
(3) Any person who, without reasonable excuse, fails to comply with subsection (1) shall commit an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding 100,000 rupees and to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years.
Radio and the press have been warning the citizens of Mauritius about the the hefty fine & imprisonment but at no time (until now) the minister intervened to say "Hey, wait, nothing such will happen. We're amending the laws".
Offences under the MNIC Act
While writing about the offences under the MNIC Act a few days earlier, I mentioned that the fine & imprisonment would, in principle, be for the different category of offences cited in the act; like forgery, identity theft etc. Not having an identity card is not mentioned as an offence, except in the "transitional provisions" of Section 10A. Otherwise, Section 4.1(a) of the act gives the impression that having an identity card is compulsory to all citizens of Mauritius; failing which it could amount to an offence under this act.