OCI renewal relief amid lawsuit against India’s curbs

iNDICA NEWS BUREAU

The Indian government on April 15 simplified the renewal process for the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card.

A person registered as an OCI card holder prior to attaining the age of 20 years will have to get the card re-issued only once — when a new passport is issued after his or her completing 20 years of age, so as to capture his or her facial features on attaining adulthood.

If a person registered as an OCI card holder after attaining the age of 20 years, there will be no requirement of re-issuance.

The Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO International) wholeheartedly welcomed the new directives.

This will remove the confusion to many OCI cardholders on the process of renewing the card at the age of 20 and 50 and one doesn’t have to go through the whole OCI card renewal process again,” said GOPIO chairman Dr Thomas Abraham in his statement.

It resolves the unnecessary hurdle,” Abraham told indica News, “and now you can update the photos online within three months after getting the new passport and now you can do it yourself.”

Abraham, however, added: “We welcomed the move by the government but there are many serious issues that government has to resolve since they have curtailed the rights of OCI holders and are calling us foreign nationals.”

He was referring to the Indian home ministry notification of March 4, which announced restrictions on what OCI or PIO (Person of Indian Origin) card holders can — and cannot — do in India.

It [the restrictions] should be removed and it should be on a par with the Indian citizens,” Abraham said. “It makes you feel like an alien in your own country.”

He said GOPIO “strongly urges the government to treat OCI cardholders, who have invested in the business and creating jobs in India, on a par with Indian citizens and they shouldn’t be termed as foreign nationals by various government agencies while doing business including manufacturing and research in India.”

He said over 80 OCI card holders living in India for the past several years had filed a petition in the Supreme Court there, saying that the notification violates their fundamental rights.

The lawsuit was filed on December 8 last year, seeking appropriate clarifications on dual citizenship status/rights in India. On April 12 this year, the court admitted the case and served notice on the Union of India at a hearing.

An India-based GOPIO member, who requested anonymity, pointed out that until the first phase of the pandemic hit India in March, overseas Indians holding OCI cards enjoyed a lifelong multiple entry visa.

In March 2020, the Indian government banned all foreign nationals, including OCI cardholders, from entering India.

Many OCI cardholders became foreigners in their motherland and could not rush to see their dying dear ones. So during the national lockdown, OCI across the world were cut off from family members residing in India causing much anxiety and distress to such families.

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