OCI status: Secrecy over MEA corrigendum in HC sparks row

THE GOAN NETWORK | MAY 14, 2024, 12:37 AM IST


The recent controversial shift by the Government of India (GoI) on the citizenship issue has sparked widespread confusion and debate in the State, comprising numerous Portuguese citizenship holders. 

Experts are also questioning the wisdom of the ministries to withhold crucial updates from the Bombay High Court in Goa even during the final hearing, held a week after the Corrigendum.

On May 6, the High Court ruled that OCI registrations can now be accepted with Revocation Certificates, overturning previous rejections based on revoked passports following the April 4 Office Memorandum from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), and subsequent submissions by the GoI. This ruling followed petitions from two locals whose OCI applications were declined by the Mumbai FRRO due to passport revocation.

Although a four-week window was granted for reconsideration of applications, the April 30 Corrigendum was not disclosed during the hearing, which could have possibly influenced the Court ruling. 

Speaking to The Goan, senior lawyer Cleofato Coutinho cited the government’s obligation to honour its commitment made before the High Court. However, he noted that the government retains the prerogative to change its stance, with recourse available to petitioners through legal channels.

Coutinho also insisted that the MEA can only modify its position once there's legal clarity in the matter. The prime question however remains: Why did the respondent GoI withhold crucial updates from the High Court? 

“It is either deliberate suppression of the Corrigendum or genuine miscommunication. Regardless of all this, the Corrigendum should have been placed before the High Court,” Coutinho maintained. 

Former Advocate General Carlos Ferreira echoed Coutinho’s concerns, accusing the government of contempt of court.

“It was your (GoI) duty to inform the High Court about the April 30 Corrigendum. You can’t mislead the court... It is a very, very serious issue and contempt to provide misleading documents to the court,” Ferreira lamented.

Consultant and catalyst facilitating Portuguese passport acquisition Duarte Fernandes, on the other hand, stated they are yet to receive gazette notification. Therefore, the November 30, 2022 order is being followed wherein persons holding foreign nationality and seeking to renew their Indian passports risk revocation under Section 10(3)(b) of the Passport Act of 1967. 

The Opposition has once again slammed the government over deceptive assurances with Goa Forward Party, Congress and Revolutionary Goans demanding clarity from the Ministry of Home Affairs. 

Leader of Opposition Yuri Alemao alleged that BJP cheated Goans and has often abused and insulted Goans working abroad to earn their livelihood.

GFP President Vijai Sardesai demanded that Chief Minister Pramod Sawant intervene with MHA to alleviate fear among the OCI applicants in Goa while slamming BJP’s U-turn post-voting for Lok Sabha elections in Goa. 

“It is now abundantly clear that Double Engine had no intention of bringing any relief to thousands of Goans applying for OCI cards…CM must understand that for the members of the Goan diaspora, this is an emotive issue, involving their ties with their motherland, and are hardly concerned with political game plans and unkept promises,” he further said.

RG leader Manoj Parab too joined the Opposition accusing the BJP of betraying Goans. “Election is over in Goa and BJP’s U-turn politics continues. This time it's OCI matter. BJP’s anti-Goan stand is once again exposed,” he stated. 

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