Context:

The Home Ministry passed an order recently that required professional Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs), such as journalists, engineers and researchers, to notify the Ministry about their activities in India.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Governance (Citizenship)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Overseas Citizen of India (OCI)
  2. Benefits to OCI Card Holders
  3. Limitations on OCI Card Holders
  4. Recently in news: NRI quota seats for OCI

Overseas Citizen of India (OCI)

  • An Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) is a person who is technically a citizen of another country having an Indian origin.
  • They are defined as a person who: Was a citizen of India on or after 26th January 1950; or Was eligible to become a citizen of India on 26th January 1950; or Is a child or grandchild of such a person, among other eligibility criteria.
  • According to Section 7A of the OCI card rules, an applicant is not eligible for the OCI card if he, his parents or grandparents have ever been a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh.
  • The Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) Scheme was introduced by amending the Citizenship Act, 1955 in August 2005 in response to demands for dual citizenship by the Indian diaspora, particularly in developed countries.
  • Multi-purpose and life-long visa are provided to the registered Overseas Citizen of India for visiting India and are also exempted from registration with Foreign Regional Registration Officer or Foreign Registration Officer for any length of stay in India.

Benefits to OCI Card Holders

  • OCI cardholders can enter India multiple times, get a multipurpose lifelong visa to visit India, and are exempt from registering with Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO).
  • If an individual is registered as an OCI for a period of five years, he/she is eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.
  • At all Indian international airports, OCI cardholders are provided with special immigration counters.
  • OCI cardholders can open special bank accounts in India, buy the non-farm property and exercise ownership rights and can also apply for a Permanent Account Number (PAN) card.

Limitations on OCI Card Holders

  • OCI card holders are not covered by Right to equality of opportunity under article 16 of the Constitution with regard to public employment.
  • They lack the benefit of Right for election as President and Vice-President under article 58 and article 66 respectively.
  • They are not entitled to the rights under article 124 and article 217 of the Constitution.
  • They are not given Right to register as a voter under section 16 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950(43 of 1950).
  • They Lack Rights with regard to the eligibility for being a member of the State Council/Legislative Assembly/Legislative Council.
  • They are not eligible for appointment to the posts of Public Services and Union Affairs of any State.
  • They cannot purchase agricultural or farmland.
  • They cannot travel to restricted areas without government permission.

Recently in news: NRI quota seats for OCI

  • Recently, the Ministry issued a gazette notification that OCI cardholders could claim “only NRI (Non-Resident Indian) quota seats” in educational institutions based on all-India entrance tests such as National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), Joint Entrance Examination (Mains), Joint Entrance Examination (Advanced) or other such all-India professional tests. – The OCI cardholder shall not be eligible for admission against any seat reserved exclusively for Indian citizens.
  • The order 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”.
  • The gazette notification imposing restrictions on Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) from practising journalism or research, and engaging in Tabligh or missionary activities, has effectively granted legal sanction to what was earlier only a set of guidelines in an official brochure.
  • OCI cardholders will enjoy parity with NRIs in adoption of children, appearing in competitive exams, purchase or sale of immovable property barring agricultural land and farmhouses, and pursuing professions such as doctors, lawyers, architects, and chartered accountants.
  • OCI cardholders will be entitled to get multiple entry lifelong visas for visiting India for any purpose. They are exempted from registration with the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) for any length of stay in India.

Issues highlighted due to this change

  • Even if an OCI student has secured a high rank in an exam like NEET, several institutions of repute do not have NRI seats.
  • The notification seemingly equates India-domiciled OCIs with a foreigner.
  • The exorbitantly high fees under the NRI quota cannot be afforded by many OCIs as they live and work in India.

-Source: The Hindu

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