If a country has strict border security with biometric identification, you may still decline to visit the country, but if your own government makes it compulsory to give fingerprints for an identity card then you're an outlaw for refusing same.
The fear of paying Rs 100, 000 fine and five years of imprisonment has certainly made many people rush to the national identity card conversion centres. I had friends and relatives sending me messages asking whether it is true that they could be jailed for refusing to give their fingerprints for the national identity card. Since the beginning of the national ID card conversion, in 2013, people have been talking more about their fear of going to jail or to pay a hefty fine, than actually talk of advantages of the use of biometric identification.
Why such fear and where does it come from? Much was fueled by newspapers which did not actually shed light into the National Identity Card Act but rather extrapolated that not having the biometric identity card would result in a fine or jail term.
What does the legislation say?
The Rs 100, 000 fine and jail term is mentioned in section 9.3 of the NIC Act of Mauritius. Section 9 reads as follows:
(1) Every person who-
(a) forges, falsifies, defaces or mutilates an identity card or the register;
(b) makes a false entry or alters in any material particular any entry in the register or an identity card;
(c) knowingly makes use of an identity card, which is altered, forged, defaced or mutilated;
(d) for the purpose of obtaining an identity card, personates a fictitious or inexistent person, or gives a false name;
(e) obtains or seeks to obtain an identity card in a name other than the name which appears in his birth certificate;
(f) without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, has in his possession an identity card not belonging to him; or
(g) produces any false document for the purpose of being issued with an identity card, shall commit an offence.
(2) Every person who contravenes this Act or any regulations madeunder it shall commit an offence.
(3) Every person who commits an offence under this Act or any regulations made under this Act shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding 100,000 rupees and to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years.
The offences listed from 9.1(a) to 9.1(g) do not say anything about « not having an identity card ».
However, Section 4.1(a) says:
Subject to paragraph (b), every person who is a citizen of Mauritius shall, within 6 months of attaining the age of 18 and on such form as may be prescribed, apply for an identity card at any office designated by the Registrar.
A friend and I had this conversation and we were of the opinion that the use of the word shall makes it compulsory for every citizen to have an identity card in my opinion. I'm not very knowledgeable in legal matters, therefore, it is advisable to take legal advice from a professional.
If having an identity card is compulsory for a citizen of Mauritius, then not having appears to be an offence under the NIC Act.
Is it a fixed penalty or...?
Wait. One isn't just asked to pay Rs 100, 000 or picked up and thrown in jail. It doesn't happen like that, certainly not in a democracy. An offence under the NIC Act will only be ruled by a court of law. It's not like an officer stopping you and you do not have this identity card so you're fined Rs 100, 000 or that he arrests you on spot.
Police would initiate an investigation and the Director of Public Prosecutions will decide whether or not the person will be prosecuted.
Democracy and Mauritius?
Now, in a democracy like that of Mauritius, does it appear fair for the DPP to prosecute somebody who is only refusing to give his/her fingerprints? That is something that we have to wait to see.