The Supreme Court will decide whether Section 7D of the Citizenship Act, 1955, and government schemes promulgated under the Section, violate the constitutional rights of Overseas Citizens of India.
Section 7 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 recognises foreign passport holders who are related to India by birth or parentage as Overseas Citizens of India (henceforth, OCIs). The OCI category facilitates visa-free entry, employment, and business opportunities for this group of foreign citizens. Further, it doesn't them to give up their foreign citizenship. Following an amendment to the Act in 2015, OCIs are not citizens of India, and accordingly do not enjoy citizenship rights such as voting, contesting public elections, and reservation in public employment. In effect, the OCI category currently operates as a long term visa.
On March 4th, 2021, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued a notification in exercise of its powers under Section 7 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 to specify the rights and obligations of OCIs. Many OCIs took issue with Clause 4 of the notification, which curtails them from seeking employment in a number of fields, without first recieving approval from the Reserve Bank of India.
In April 2021, following this notification, a group of 80 OCIs filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) challenging the validity of Section 7D of the Citizenship Act, 1955. Section 7D empowers the Government to revoke the OCI status of a person on certain grounds. This includes expressing disaffection towards the Constitution, or in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India. The petitioners argue that this affects their right to freely raise grievances with public officers, even though they reside and pay taxes in India. They further state that they are disentitled to seek information under the Right to Information Act, 2005. The case of the petitioners is that the unchecked discretion afforded to the Government by Section 7D is arbitrary.
The Ministry of Home Affairs issued a notification in March 2021 requiring OCIs to take admission in medical colleges only through NRI quota seats, even if they had written the NEET examination. This notification was challenged in the SC and a two-judge bench composed of Justices Abdul Nazeer and Krishna Murari ruled that OCIs would be allowed to participate in the NEET exam under all categories, but only in 2021-22.
1. Does Section 7D of the Citizenship Act, 1995 grant the Government arbitrary powers to revoke an individual's OCI Status?