Updated: February 1, 2020 7:30:40 am
Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card holders do not enjoy fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution, including the right to freedom of speech and expression, the government told the Delhi High Court on Friday.
The government’s response came in a plea filed by former Ranbaxy executive Dinesh Thakur seeking the right to seek information under the RTI Act.
“OCI card holders have merely been granted statutory rights under the Citizenship Act, 1955,” the government said in an affidavit filed by the Ministry of External Affairs and said that other grounds will be brought up during the hearing of the case.
“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. Therefore, what right is granted depends on the policy of the Central government,” the affidavit stated.
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In his plea, Thakur had also sought exemption for overseas citizens from seeking permission under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 (FCRA) to make donations to religious and charitable institutions. He argued that the right to make donations to religious institutions is and exercise of his fundamental right to freedom of religion, guaranteed by the Constitution.
The ministry has not specifically replied on whether an OCI card holder has the right to practice religion in India, although it says no fundamental rights are applicable to them.
The ministry’s response to the plea is despite a 2018 ruling by the Delhi High Court where the court said that OCI card holders “have the right to enjoy the fundamental rights of equality and freedom of speech and expression in the same way as any other Indian citizen.”
In 2018, the Delhi High Court, restoring the OCI status of Dr Christo Thomas Phillip, had said that an overseas citizen can exercise fundamental rights guaranteed to “natural persons” under the constitution. Phillip’s OCI card was cancelled by the government on the grounds that he was involved in missionary activities in India.
The Supreme Court has also located the right to information in both Articles 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, that is granted to citizens, and Article 21 – the right to life, which is guaranteed to all natural persons.
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