An increasing number of legal experts are reportedly speaking out against a new law scheduled to be presented at the National Assembly this Tuesday July 19. The new Immigration Bill, particularly the amendment to Section 39 of the Citizen Act, would reportedly grant the Prime Minister the power to render a citizen stateless.
According to l’Express newspaper, once this law is enacted, current PM Pravind Jugnauth and future Prime Ministers will have the right to wrest citizenship from a person “in his absolute discretion and without giving any reason”.
Basically, anyone who, after acquiring Mauritian citizenship through marriage or through investment, can lose it if the Prime Minister so decides.
This could be a major headache for citizens of countries that do not allow dual nationality. If a person has renounced his citizenship to become Mauritian and this right is subsequently revoked, he will become stateless, journalist Yasin Denmamode reported.
“It’s totally against international law,” said Rajen Narsinghen, who reads law at the University of Mauritius. The academic argued that the law is potentially unconstitutional because this controversial clause of the new Immigration Act “flouts the spirit of the Constitution”.
“We are entitled to wonder if there is a hidden motive linked to this affair, given the way in which the amendment is being sneaked through the back door,” he told the daily newspaper. “While this process exists in all countries, the decision is taken by a technical committee and for very serious offences, often linked to terrorism. It cannot be a decision taken by the prince of the day, especially if he does not need to justify his decision.”
The Citizenship Act provides in clause 11/3 (b) that “The minister shall not deprive any person of his citizenship where it appears to him that the person would become stateless”.
But Rajen Narsinghen explained that in law, there is the principle that any new law or amendment implicitly annuls the old ones. As a result, the new Immigration Bill, and especially the wording of the amendment pointed out, may also nullify clause 11/3 (b).
Yatin Varma, the president of the Bar Council, joined the fray stating that the new law contains clauses which give the power of arrest to immigration officers. “Moreover, it goes against our own jurisprudence. Time and time again, the Supreme Court has ruled that all decisions must be justified,” Varma was cited as saying.
Danger for business world
There seems to be another “danger” that this amendment could represent, this time for the business world: Overnight, an investor could find himself forced to leave Mauritius if his citizenship is revoked for reasons unknown to him. To justify his decision, the Prime Minister “can cite reasons such as defence, public safety or public order”.
L’Express recalled that this was exactly the point denounced by the ex-CEO of Mauritius Telecom, Sherry Singh, to allegedly justify the attempt to monitor internet traffic.
Opposition Labour MP Dr Arvind Boolell has also reportedly sounded the alarm, claiming that the new immigration bill “gives unfettered powers to Pravind Jugnauth to strip a citizen of his citizenship.”
“He can deport any citizen. The amendments to the Mauritian Citizen Act give absolute discretionary powers to Pravind Jugnauth to target, first and foremost, Sherry Singh – whose father is Indian.”