RBI kept out Muslim long-term visa holders from property-buying right

2018 circular extended benefits to minorities from countries mentioned in CAA

Updated - December 16, 2019 10:51 pm IST

Published - December 16, 2019 10:22 pm IST - Mumbai

With the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) coming into force, the spotlight is now on a Reserve Bank of India (RBI) circular issued back in March 2018 that allowed the now beneficiaries of the Act to buy immovable property.

The RBI notification, under the Foreign Exchange Management (Acquisition and Transfer of Immovable Property in India) Regulations, 2018, issued on March 26, 2018, said, “A person being a citizen of Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, belonging to minority communities in those countries, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, who is residing in India and has been granted a Long Term Visa (LTV) by the Central government may purchase only one residential immovable property in India as dwelling unit for self-occupation and only one immovable property for carrying out self-employment.”

The CAA talks about granting citizenship to persecuted minorities, the same minorities that the RBI guidelines talked about, and from the same countries — Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Since these guidelines were issued, under the foreign exchange management regulations, these were issued after consultation with the government.

Central banking sources said when the circular was issued by the RBI, the NRC or CAB (Citizenship Amendment Bill) were “nowhere on the horizon.”

“The government had asked what it should do with those who had been residing in the country for a long time. So, it was agreed to allow them to buy property for residing and land for making a living,” said a source. The source added the RBI was not aware of the government’s intention, if any, nor was it discussed or asked.

“The issue of citizenship comes under the domain of the Home Ministry and these issues are not discussed with the central bank,” the source said.

An email sent to the RBI for its comment on the issue remained unanswered till the time of going to the press.

In November 2018, the RBI allowed citizens of Bangladesh or Pakistan, belonging to the same set of minority communities in those countries, who were residing in India and had applied for a LTV to open one NRO Account.

“[NRO Account] will be opened for a period of six months and may be renewed at six-monthly intervals subject to the condition that the individual holds a valid visa and valid residential permit,” the RBI norms said.

Last week, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill or CAB, which grants Indian citizenship to the persecuted non-Muslims of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, was passed by the Rajya Sabha (the Lok Sabha passed it earlier) and has received President’s assent. Widespread protests broke out across the country against the Act with the opposition parties terming the new law as unconstitutional.

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