Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) & their rights

Overseas Citizens of India (OCI)

Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) is a person who is a citizen of a foreign country having an Indian origin. It granted permission to live and work in India indefinitely. It was launched to meet the demand made by the Indian Diaspora living in various developed nations to have ‘dual citizenship’ in India. This scheme was introduced by amending the Citizenship Act,1955 in August 2005. It was launched during the Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas Convention held in 2005 in Hyderabad[1].

OCI is not actual citizenship according to the law. To apply for an OCI card, a holder must be the citizen and passport holder of another country except for Pakistan and Bangladesh. However, in 2019, Bangladesh citizens can apply for an OCI card. After 29 Jan 2015, OCI cardholders no longer require the passport containing the visa sticker. It is enough to only carry valid foreign passport along with the OCI card. OCI booklet is blue in colour.

Eligibility

Section 7A of The Citizenship Act, 1955[2], a person before applying for OCI card must meet the following criteria, granted if he/she:

  • Was an Indian citizen on 26 January 1950 and after.
  • Belonged to a territory that became a part of India after 15 August 1947.
  • Eligible for the citizenship of India at the time of commencement of the constitution.
  • Is a child/ grandchild/ great grandchild of such a citizen.
  • Is a minor child whose one parent or both the parents are an Indian citizen.
  • Is a spouse of foreign origin of any citizen of India or an OCI cardholder.

Also, he/she who has served a foreign military is not eligible for the scheme.

Benefits to OCI Card Holders

Following benefits[3] accrue to an OCI Card Holder:

  • A multipurpose lifelong visa, with multiple entries to India.
  • Can stay for any length in India without getting reported to the police authorities.
  • Parity with NRIs in economic, financial and educational spheres. It has an exception in the acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties.
  • Parity with NRIs in the inter-country adoption of Indian children.
  • Parity in matters of tariffs in domestic airfares.
  • Parity to be charged with the same entry fee as Indians to visit national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India. And, in case of visiting the national monuments, historical sites and monuments.
  • Parity with NRIs in respect of pursuing a profession in the field of:
  • Doctors, nurses, dentists and pharmacists.
  • Advocates
  • Architects
  • Chartered Accountants
  • Parity with NRIs to appear for the All-India Pre-Medical Test or any other such tests.

Rights not available to the OCI

Section 7B[4] of the Citizenship Act, 1955 states that, an OCI shall not be granted such rights available to the Indian citizens, namely:

  • Equality of matters in public employment (Article 16).
  • Election as President (Article 58).
  • Election of Vice-President (Article 66).
  • Appointment as a Judge of Supreme Court (Article 124).
  • Appointment as a Judge of a High Court (Article 217).
  • Registration as a Voter under Section 16 of the Representation of The People Act, 1950.
  • Eligibility to be a member of the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha under Section 3 and 4 of the Representation of The People Act, 1951.
  • Eligibility to be a member of the Legislative Assembly or the Legislative Council of a State under Section 5, 5A and 6 of the Representation of The People Act, 1951.
  • Appointment to the public service posts in the Union or State, except if there is an order by the Central Govt. to such appointment.

Political Rights Granted to the OCI

Political rights include right of the accused, right to a fair trial, right to assemble, right to petition, right to vote, right of self-defence, right to seek a legal remedy, natural justice in law and due process.

The Citizenship Act, 1955 does not grant any of these political rights to the Overseas Citizens of India.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019

This is the latest amendment made to the existing Citizenship Act of 1955. It lists out some important amendments related to the Overseas Citizens of India.

A new provision has been added in the Act which allows that an individual’s Overseas Citizenship of India status can be cancelled. Section 4[5] of the Amendment says that under Section 7D of the principal Act if an OCI violates any of the provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955, he/she could lose her OCI status. A proviso to the same section states that the said OCI should be given a reasonable opportunity to be heard before passing of any order.

Recent Judgement

In case, Dr Christo Thomas Philip vs Union of India & Ors.[6], the authorities cancelled the doctor’s OCI card under Section 7D (e) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 on the ground that he was carrying out evangelical medical missionary in India. Further, the court did not find any material evidence to suggest that the doctor was engaging in any conversion activities. The Delhi HC referring to Article 25 of the Constitution stated that it is granted to all persons across the world and is not restricted to Indians only. Thus, it directed the authorities to restore the card to the doctor and asked to ensure that the doctor faces no impediment in entering the country.

Conclusion

The Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) enjoy a wide variety of rights under the Citizenship Act, but the act does not confer any political rights on them. It also prevents them from buying agricultural and plantation properties. Further, the latest 2019 Amendment does not provide any guidance on the nature of laws which the central govt. may notify. As this guidance is necessary to set limits on the authority’s powers and to avoid any arbitrariness in the exercise of powers.

Edited by Pushpamrita Roy

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

Reference

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overseas_Citizenship_of_India

[2] https://mea.gov.in/images/pdf/extracts-of-citizenship-act1955.pdf

[3] https://mea.gov.in/overseas-citizenship-of-india-scheme.htm

[4] https://indiacode.nic.in/bitstream/123456789/4210/1/Citizenship_Act_1955.pdf

[5] http://egazette.nic.in/WriteReadData/2019/214646.pdf

[6] https://indiankanoon.org/doc/59437989/