The Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government has cancelled at least 102 Overseas Citizen of India cards between 2014 and May 2023, Article 14 reported on Monday citing a Right to Information response.
Overseas Citizenship of India is an immigration status that allows foreigners of Indian origin to live and work in India indefinitely. If someone loses their Overseas Citizenship of India status, they have to leave the country and apply for a visa to return.
Over 45 lakh people hold Overseas Citizen of India cards.
In the Right to Information responses to Article 14, the Centre cited section 7D of the Citizenship Act, 1955 as justification for the cancellation of Overseas Citizen of India cards.
Section 7D of the law says that Overseas Citizen of India cards can be cancelled if they are obtained by fraud, or if the cardholder showed disaffection to the Constitution, assisted an enemy during war, faced imprisonment or it was necessary to do so in the interests of sovereignty, integrity and security of India.
When asked about the number of cancellations of the Overseas Citizen of India cards between 2004 and 2014, before the BJP government came to power, the Centre told the news portal that it did not have information.
The Centre stated that 2,84,574 Overseas Citizen of India cards were cancelled till May 2023. An appeal to the response showed that 2,59,554 Overseas Citizen of India cards were cancelled so they could be reissued, while other cards were cancelled for being lost, damaged, deceased and wrong printing.
In January, the Centre issued a notice to French journalist Vanessa Dougnac, asking her to explain why her Overseas Citizen of India card should not be withdrawn. The BJP government alleged that her “malicious” work has created a “biased negative perception” of the country.
In 2021, the Centre issued a notification introducing a series of new restrictions that curtailed the rights and liberties of Overseas Citizens of India card holders.
According to the notification, overseas citizens of India had to secure a special permit to undertake any research, any missionary or Tablighi or journalistic activities or to visit any area in India notified as protected, restricted or prohibited.
This was challenged by a group of 80 overseas citizens of India in April 2021 in the Supreme Court.