Overseas Citizenship of India
2000: High level committee on the Indian Diaspora under LM Singhvi was set up
to recommend measures for a constructive relationship with them
Report in 2002
- Grants of dual citizenship to Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) of certain countries.
- Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2003.
- Made provisions for acquisition of OCI by PlOs of 16 countries (not including Bangladesh and Pakistan)
- Omitted all provisions relating to & recognizing Commonwealth Citizenship from the principle Act
Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2005
- Expanded scope of OCI status to PIOs of all countries except Pakistan and Bangladesh
OCI not actually dual citizenship (prohibited by Article 9 of the Constitution)
Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2015
- Modified OCI provisions
- Introduced OCI Cardholder Scheme by merging PIO card scheme (introduced 2002) and OCI card scheme (introduced 2005)
- Both had been running parallel, causing confusion
- PIO card scheme rescinded
- All existing PIO card holders deemed OCI cardholders
- Replaced nomenclature of "Overseas Citizens of India" with "Overseas Citizen of Indian Cardholder".
Registration of OCI Cardholder
1. Interested person has to register an application with the Central govt. On receiving the application, the Central govt can register as an OCI Cardholder
(a) Any person of full age and capacity
- Who is a citizen of another country, but was a citizen of India at the time of, or at any time after the commencement of the Constitution.
- Who is a citizen of another country, but was eligible to become a citizen of India at the time of the commencement of the Constitution
- Who is a citizen of another country, but belonged to a territory that became part of India after the 15th August 1947
- Who is a child or grandchild or a great-grandchild of such a citizen
(b) A person, who is a minor child of a person mentioned in clause (a); or
(c) A person, who is a minor child, and whose both parents are citizens of India or one of the parents is a citizen of India; or
(d) Spouse of foreign origin of a citizen of India or spouse of foreign origin of an OCI cardholder and whose marriage has been registered and subsisted for a continuous period of not less than two years immediately preceding the presentation of the application
- No person, who or either of whose parents or grandparents or great grandparents is or had been a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh or such a country as the Central Government may specify, shall be eligible for registration as an OCI Cardholder.
2. The Central Government may specify the date from which the existing persons of Indian Origin Cardholders shall be deemed to be OCI Cardholders (decided on o9-01-2015)
3. Notwithstanding anything contained in point (1), Central Government may, if it is satisfied that special circumstances exist, after recording the circumstances in writing, register a person as an OCI Cardholder.
Try yourself: An Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder shall not be entitled to the following rights (which are conferred on a citizen of India)
1. He shall not be entitled to the right to equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.
2. He shall not be eligible for election as President.
3. He shall not be eligible for election as Vice-President.
4. He shall not be eligible for appointment as a Judge of the Supreme Court
Which of these statements is/are correct?
An Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder shall not be entitled to the following rights (which are conferred on a citizen of India)
(a) He shall not be entitled to the right to equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.
(b) He shall not be eligible for election as President.
(c) He shall not be eligible for election as Vice-President.
(d) He shall not be eligible for appointment as a Judge of the Supreme Court.
(e) He shall not be eligible for appointment as a Judge of the High Court.
(f) He shall not be entitled to registration as a voter.
(g) He shall not be eligible for being a member of the House of the People or of the Council of States.
(h) He shall not be eligible for being a member of the State Legislative Assembly or the States Legislative Council.
(i) He shall not be eligible for appointment to public services and posts in connection with affairs of the Union or of any State except for appointment in such services and posts as the Central Government may specify.
Conferment of Rights of OCI Cardholders
(i) Entitled to rights as specified by the Central government.
(ii) NOT entitled to the following rights:
- Right to equality of opportunity in matters of public employment
- Not eligible for election as President, Vice-President, member of Parliament or State Legislative Assembly or State legislative Council.
- Not eligible for appointment as Judge of SC or HCs, or appoints to public services and posts in connection with affairs of the Union or of any state except when specified by the Central Government
- Not to be entitled to registration as a voter
Benefits of OCI Cardholders
- Multiple entry lifelong visa for visiting India for any purpose
But will need special permission to undertake research work
- Exemption from registration with Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) or Foreigners Registration Officer (FRO) for any length of stay in India.
- Parity with NRIs in respect of all facilities available to them in economic, financial and educational fields except in matters relating to the acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties
- NRIs have all benefits available to Indian citizens subject to notifications issued by the Government from time to time
- Charged same entry fee as domestic Indian visitors to visit national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India
Renunciation of OCI Card
- OCI cardholder can make a declaration in the prescribed manner to renounce the card and her registration as a Cardholder
- The spouse of foreign origin of a such a person will also cease to be an OCI Cardholder
- Minor children of such a person will also cease to be an OCI Cardholder
Cancellation of OCI Card
Central Government can cancel the OCI Card if it is satisfied that:
- The card was obtained by fraud, false representation or concealment of material fact
- The cardholder has shown disaffection towards the Constitution of India
- The cardholder has unlawfully traded or communicated with an enemy with which India is at war
- Cardholder holder has been sentenced to two or more years of imprisonment within 5 years of obtaining the card
- It is necessary to do so in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of India, friendly relations of India with any foreign country, or in the interests of the general public
- The marriage of an OCI has been dissolved by a competent court, or has not been dissolved by the Cardholder has also solemnised another marriage
Table: Comparing NRI, PIO & OCI Cardholder
Try yourself:Consider the following statements regarding Overseas citizenship of India.
1. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2005, expanded the scope of the grant of OCI for PIOs of all countries except Pakistan and Bangladesh
2. The OCI is not actually dual citizenship as the Indian Constitution forbids dual citizenship or dual nationality
Which of these statements is/are not correct?
- The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2005, expanded the scope of the grant of OCI for PIOs of all countries except Pakistan and Bangladesh as long as their home countries all dual citizenship under their local laws.
- It must be noted here that the OCI is not actually dual citizenship as the Indian Constitution forbids dual citizenship or dual nationality (Article 9). Again, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2015,.has modified the provisions pertaining to the OCI in the Principal Act.
Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019
The amendment proposes to permit members of six communities - Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan - to continue to live in India if they entered India before December 14, 2014.
- It also reduces the requirement for citizenship from 11 years to just 6 years.
- Two notifications also exempted these migrants from the Passport Act and Foreigners Act.
- A large number of organisations in Assam protested against this Bill as it may grant citizenship to Bangladeshi Hindu illegal migrants.
- The justification given for the bill is that Hindus and Buddhists are minorities in Bangladesh, and fled to India to avoid religious persecution, but Muslims are a majority in Bangladesh and so the same cannot be said about them.
Different Scenario in Assam
- Assam witnessed large-scale illegal migration from erstwhile East Pakistan and, after 1971, from present-day Bangladesh.
- This led to the six-year-long Assam movement from 1979 to 1985, for deporting illegal migrants.
- The All Assam Students' Union (AASU) led the movement that demanded the updating of the NRC and the deportation of all illegal migrants who had entered Assam after 1951.
- The Assam Movement against illegal immigration eventually led to the historic Assam Accord of 1985, signed by the Movement leaders and the Rajiv Gandhi government.
- It set March 25, 1971, as the cut-off date for the deportation of illegal migrants.
- Since the cut-off date prescribed under articles 5 and 6 of the Constitution was July 19, 1949 - to give force to the new date, an amendment was made to the Citizenship Act, 1955, and a new section (6A) was introduced.
- The section was made applicable only to Assam.
- It laid down that all persons of Indian origin who entered Assam before January 1, 1966, and have been ordinary residents will be deemed, Indian citizens.
- Those who came after 1 January 1966 but before March 25, 1971, and have been ordinary residents, will get citizenship at the expiry of 10 years from their detection as a foreigner.
- During this interim period, they will not have the right to vote but can get an Indian passport.
- In Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha (2014) where the constitutionality of the 1986 amendment was challenged (the Mahasangha argues that the cutoff year for Assam should be 1951 instead of 1971), the court referred the matter to the Constitution Bench.
- To examine whether Section 6A is constitutional and valid though it prescribes a different cutoff date for Assam (1971) from the one prescribed in the Constitution for the rest of the country (1949).
- A five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court is yet to examine the constitutionality of Section 6A under which the current NRC has been prepared.