The Indian 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 permitting individuals of Indian descent from foreign countries to reside and work in India indefinitely. In the event of losing this status, individuals are required to depart from the country and reapply for a visa to re-enter.
Over 45 lakh people hold Overseas Citizen of India cards.
In the Right to Information responses addressed to Article 14, the Centre justified the cancellation of Overseas Citizen of India cards by referencing section 7D of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
Section 7D of the law stipulates that Overseas Citizen of India cards may be revoked under various circumstances, including if they were obtained through fraudulent means, if the cardholder demonstrated disaffection to the Constitution, aided an enemy during a war, faced imprisonment, or if it was deemed necessary in the interests of the sovereignty, integrity, and security of India.
When questioned about the count of Overseas Citizen of India card cancellations from 2004 to 2014, preceding the BJP government's tenure, the Centre informed the news portal that it lacked the relevant 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.
Since 2014, the Centre has cancelled the Overseas Citizen of India status of several journalists, activists and academicians.
In January, the Centre issued a notice to French journalist Vanessa Dougnac, requesting an explanation for retaining her Overseas Citizen of India card. The BJP government accused her of producing "malicious" content that has contributed to a "biased negative perception" of the country.
In 2021, the Centre released a notification implementing a set of additional restrictions that restricted the rights and freedoms of Overseas Citizens of India cardholders.
As per the notification, individuals holding Overseas Citizens of India cards were required to obtain a special permit for engaging in research, missionary or Tablighi activities, journalistic pursuits, or visiting areas in India designated as protected, restricted, or prohibited.
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