In an affidavit filed by the Ministry of External Affairs, the Central Government has stated that Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders cannot enjoy Fundamental Rights guaranteed under the Constitution. As per a report in Indian Express, the statement came on Friday in response to a petition filed by a former Ranbaxy executive Dinesh Thakur in Delhi High Court,
Thakur, in his petition, had sought the right to seek information under the Right To Information (RTI) Act. The government reportedly stated in the court that the OCI status ensures merely statutory rights under the Citizenship Act, 1955, and not constitutional or fundamental rights.
Thakur had also argued that an OCI cardholder has the right to make donations to religious institutions without seeking permission. He stated that such a right is vested by the Constitution. He sought an exemption from seeking permission under FCRA, 2010 (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) to make donations to religious institutions.
The affidavit read, “It is a statutory right and not a fundamental or a constitutional right. The grant of the limited right is by the Central Government by notification under Section 7B of the Citizenship Act, 1955. Therefore, what right is granted depends on the policy of the Central government.”
The Centre’s stand may be in conflict with the observation made by the same Delhi High Court in 2018. The Court observed that OCI cardholders have the right to enjoy the fundamental rights of equality and freedom of speech like other Indian citizens.
The petition was filed by one Dr.Christo Thomas Phillip whose OCI card was cancelled due to alleged missionary work. The Court found no promising evidence that would suggest that he worked as a missionary doctor. As such, Philip’s OCI status was restored.
The Government had earlier cancelled the OCI card of British citizen Aatish Taseer, the son of deceased Pakistani Politician Salman Taseer and Indian journalist Tavleen Singh. He had allegedly withheld critical information about his parenthood in the official documents. As per OCI rules, the descendants of Pakistani or Bangladeshi citizens cannot be eligible for OCI status.