The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed a bill, paving the way for registration of Overseas Indian Cardholders (OIC) instead ofOverseas Citizens of India (OCI) and seeking to bring within the scope of citizenship a person “who is ordinarily a resident” instead of the person who has been residing in India for a specified period.
However, no person who has been a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh or any other country as decided by the government, will be eligible for registration as an OIC under the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2011.
Replying to the debate on the bill, minister of state for home affairs Mullappally Ramachandran said facilities to OIC will be exactly the same as the OCI.
On dual citizenship to Indians who are citizens of another country, the minister said, “About dual citizens, the Constitution provides that once a person is citizen of another country, he loses Indian citizenship.”
The Central government can now relax a provision of 12 months as resident in India as one of the qualifications for grant of citizenship by the process of naturalization. But, the OIC will not be entitled to the rights conferred on citizens of the country with regard to equality of opportunity in public employment, for election as President, Vice President and appointment of judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts.
The OIC will also not be entitled to be registered as a voter and cannot become a member of the legislature.
As per the statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill, the amendments are “required due to certain lacunae that were noticed during its implementation and review of provisions relating to OCI”.
Besides providing for registration of “Overseas Indian Cardholders”, the bill provides for registration of “spouse of a citizen of India, who is citizen of another country and where his or her marriage has been registered and subsisted for a continuous period of not less than two years.”
It also provides for registration of “a person who is a minor, and whose both parents are citizens of India or one of the parents is citizen of India.”
As the Bill was being discussed in the Upper House, the Opposition sought to embarrass the government by pointing out that no Cabinet minister was present in the House other than Ramachandran, who moved the Bill for consideration and passage.
As soon as some members suggested that special mentions should taken up instead of the Bill, civil aviation minister Ajit Singh and HRD minister Pallam Raju rushed in the House.