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Overseas Citizens of India, stung by MHA notification, plan to take battle to HC

View of Overseas Citizen of India Card issued to non resident Indians along with U.S. Passport.  

The Home Ministry’s March 4 order that required professional Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs), such as journalists, engineers and researchers, to notify the Ministry about their activities in India has left them in the lurch.

A portal that was to come up for the purpose is not operational yet. A Ministry official said it was delayed as several officials in the Ministry’s Foreigners Division had tested positive for COVID-19 in the past month. The official said the OCIs could intimate the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) through e-mail till the portal is activated.

Dr. Rajanna Sreedhara, president of the Association of Resident OCI and Families (AROCIF), said they believed the notification was discriminatory, adding that they planned to challenge it in the High Court but the plan is currently on the back burner due to the pandemic situation.

Also read | Centre eases guidelines for OCI cardholders

NRI quota seats

On March 4, the Ministry issued a gazette notification that OCI cardholders could claim “only NRI (Non-Resident Indian) quota seats” in educational institutions. It specified that OCIs could only pursue the following professions — doctors, dentists, nurses and pharmacists, advocates, architects and chartered accountants, and the rest would require “special permission”.

OCIs are of Indian origin but hold foreign passports. India does not allow dual citizenship but provides certain benefits under Section 7B(I) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 to the OCIs. So far, 37.72 lakh OCI Cards are said to have been issued.

The notification said that OCIs shall be required to obtain a “special permission or a special permit” from the competent authority or the FRRO or the Indian mission “to undertake research, missionary or Tabligh or mountaineering or journalistic activities or internship in any foreign diplomatic missions”.

“The notification does not mention IT professionals, a large number of OCIs are engineers; so will they have to apply for employment visa? It says permission required to conduct research ... this will place undue burden on scientific, pharmaceutical, medical, biotechnology and other research fields,” Dr Sreedhara said.

Admissions uncertain

“Even if an OCI student has secured a high rank in an exam like NEET [National Eligibility Entrance Test], several institutions of repute do not have NRI seats. The exorbitantly high fees under the NRI quota cannot be afforded by many OCIs as they live and work in India. India-domiciled OCI students are deprived of domicile status both in India [country of residence] as well as the country of their citizenship,” Dr. Sreedhara said.

Anjana Hulse, an OCI and Bengaluru resident, said her son secured All India Rank 2 in the Kishore Vaigyanik Protsahan Yojana examinations held by the government but added, “We are not sure of getting admission in the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.

“IISc does not have NRI seats and earlier it was admitting students on merit. If IISc changes its admission criteria based on the latest MHA notification, despite securing a high rank, I don't know if my son can study there, since he is an OCI,” Ms Hulse said.

Dr. Sreedhara said though they petitioned the Ministry, the notification had only left them further confused.

“The notification equates India-domiciled OCIs with a foreigner...A foreigner can only have a Portfolio Investment Scheme investment account which is a special category of investment account approved and monitored by the Reserve Bank of India with several restrictions. It has to be funded by foreign currency remittance only. An India-domiciled OCI living and working in India may not have any foreign currency funding option at all and hence may not be able to hold an investment account,” he said.


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Printable version | Jun 24, 2021 11:06:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/overseas-citizens-of-india-stung-by-home-ministry-notification-plan-to-take-battle-to-supreme-court/article34548373.ece

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