What you need to know about the court’s judgement regarding the biometric cards

ID Conversion Center

Today, the 29th of May 2015 has been marked by two important milestones in the history of our island:

  1. Resignation of Kailash Purryag as President of the Republic of Mauritius, effective as from today 1800hrs and appointment in a very near future of Ameenah Gurib-Fakim as the first woman occupying the post of the President of the Republic of Mauritius.Ameenah
  2. Judgement of the court in respect to the cases of Dr Madhewoo and Pravind Jugnauth regarding the new biometric cards, replacing the older onesRead more about my post on this topic.

Although I’m not a legal expert, if I had to sum up today’s court judgement, I would say that the storage and retention of biometric data have been found unconstitutional according to the existing National Identity Card Act and the Data Protection Act. The judges have stated, I quote,

“[…] It is inconceivable that there can be such uncontrolled access to personal data in the absence of the vital safeguards afforded by judicial control.” [End of quote]

Other points brought forward by the plaintifs (Madhewo and Jugnauth) do not breach any of our constitutional or human rights . For example, these two parties have failed to show why taking their biometric data should be prohibited so that they can’t be used in a biometric card.

The judges have also acknowledged the help of our blogger Ish Sookun :

On the other hand, witness Sookun has said enough to impress upon us the risks and damages which the storage and retention system adopted by the defendants would entail

What will happen next?

Since today’s judgement also prohibits the authorities from storing any fingerprints or other biometric data, the government will most probably need to destroy its database containing biometric data of over 850,000 Mauritians.

I quote :

“[…] We grant a permanent writ of injunction prohibiting the defendants from storing, or causing to be stored, as the case may be, any fingerprints or biometric information data obtained on the basis of the provisions in the National Identity Card Act and the Data Protection Act.”

The government should communicate on their decision very soon.

Coming to the new card itself, my guess is that the government will continue to issue the new National ID card format but without the need to collect fingerprints and the photograph for biometric purposes. Being more secure with the various techniques used (Weakening pattern, lenticular printing, optical variable ink, etc), there will be no reason to boycott it anymore, unless the current or any future government finds new ways to implement more reliable measures and a legal framework regarding a card with biometric data. Additionally, as discussed in my post on this topic, it will be more easier to extend the use of the National ID Card, for example, to link driver’s license to it, thus sparing the need to carry our bulky driving license.

To end, congrats to everyone who have participated actively in this legal fight and also, thanks to each and everyone of the 15,000 Mauritians who have refused to give their biometric data under the existing context 🙂

Bon weekend!

Link to the judgement of (1) Dr Mahadewoo and (2) Pravind Jugnauth.

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  • Tushal

    Proud to be among the 15,000 citizens of Mauritius 🙂 And a good decision.

  • selven

    Fair judgement, though one worrying thing, I quote:
    ” For example, these two parties have failed to show why taking
    their biometric data should be prohibited so that they can’t be used in a
    biometric card.”

    Hmm, in the process of taking the print, i suppose this is not done right infront of you, i.e taking your print and then generating it on a card (I don’t know the actual process since i never went to get one), do they store that finger print on a computing device then transfer it on the physical card?

    If so, is that process very transparent, i.e can I be sure that if there is any copy, that its not copied somewhere else?

  • Sameem

    can i refuse to give my fingerprint to my employer?

  • Difficult to give a good answer on this but I think that there has been a court judgement about this recently.

  • Varlesh Dhurmea

    May I know what the law says on the following:-

    The employer taking the presence of his employees through fingerprint!
    The employer taking the presence of his employees through face recognition devise!

    I really need your help. I need to know this ASAP


  • If you search in the local newspapers, you will surely come across the recent verdict given in a similar case. I dont have the details unfortunately.

  • I came up with the same situation at the moment. My employer asked me to sign a paper allowing them to use my fingerprint for access the company premises. I asked them to send me two lines of email that I need to sign the paper allowing to read my fingerprints than I will sign the paper or I can knock the door to get in. In fact they are scanning it since I joined.