Overseas Citizens of India Move Supreme Court over Centre’s rules

citizenship Law Insider
citizenship Law Insider

Kashish Jain

Eighty Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) have moved Supreme Court. They have done so over concerns of not being able to freely express their views and register dissent against the government.

 OCIs are persons who hold a passport from a foreign country but have connections with India by birth or parentage. They do not have Indian citizenship or Indian passports.

The petitioners are concerned over the fact that Section 7D of the Citizenship Act allows the Union government to cancel the registration of OCIs.

Said provision also prohibits them from residing in India over violation of any law or for showing disaffection to the constitution of India.

The Petitioners have stated,

 “Section 7D(b) of the Act allows the government to cancel a person’s OCI registration if they show disaffection to the Constitution of India and section 7D (da) allows cancellation of OCI registration for violation of any law. Both these provisions under section 7D are arbitrary and have a chilling effect on the freedom of expression of OCIs, several of whom despite being permanently resident in India cannot express peaceful dissent against the state for fear that such dissent will amount to either disaffection to the Constitution of India or the violation of any law so prescribed.” 

Apart from these restrictions, they have also been barred from participating in several professions such as pursuing research work and journalistic work in the country. 

They have also stated, 

“By limiting the number of professions that OCIs can have parity with NRIs in pursuing, several OCIs practicing other non-enumerated professions are hindered from meaningfully participating in and contributing to their professional streams in India. Although several OCIs reside and pay taxes in India, such persons are unable to meaningfully voice their grievance with local government authorities over civic infrastructure out of fear that their overseas citizenship may be canceled for expressing their right to raise public grievances.” 

Senior advocate R. Venkataramani told the Supreme Court that though OCIs contribute a lot to India through tax payment and their profession, they live in a constant state of fear of losing their OCI status because of the “arbitrary power conferred on the government” to cancel their status.

The bench has sought the Centre’s response over the matter, the report added. Venkatamani is representing the OCIs, 57 of whom reside in Bengaluru.

The bench comprised of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian.

Anand, an OCI, expressed disappointment over the new rules and said,

“The original premise of the OCI was to give Indians the opportunity of dual citizenship. At least that is what I thought was the original charter. As an OCI now I cannot be part of any religious organization for travel purposes. That was not there before. What was the government thinking when it contemplated awarding dual citizenship? That was a BJP government [in 2003] too. Not having voting rights as an OCI is fine. But why would the government not want OCIs to buy agricultural land, not be part of the journalist community and not visit areas which are supposedly security risks as far as foreign nationals are concerned? Why reinforce these rules now?”

Senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India, Sanjay Hegde said,

 “The new rules change the emphasis from near-citizenship to be above par foreigners. Technically the government is right. The OCI card was all along with a long-term visa, but apart from long-term stay, it also gave a lot of privileges, or the attempt was to give a near-citizenship experience. These rules have been tightened to get over a few court rulings. It appears to be a knee-jerk reaction among the bureaucracy where one does not have to necessarily change parliamentary law but change regulations that can be done at the executive level. They have the rule-making power as long as the procedure is complied with and laid on the floor of parliament and so on.”

The petitioners have also said that despite having worked and resided in India, they were often discouraged to seek information from state authorities under the Right to Information Act. 

Related Post