MARGAO: The Goa bench of the Bombay High Court (HC) is currently hearing a petition filed by a Goan origin Portuguese national, which could set a precedent for others facing similar issues in Goa. The petitioner is seeking direction to the Foreigner Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) to register him as an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI).
Additionally, the petitioner, Ian Fernandes, is requesting the HC to direct the Union of India, specifically the Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), to issue him an OCI card, citing his prior Indian citizenship before acquiring Portuguese nationality.
In response, the MEA had requested until the end of January 2024 to explain its rationale for denying OCI cards to individuals whose Indian passports have been revoked.
The HC presided over by Justice M S Sonak and Justice Valmiki Sa Menezes, has set the next hearing for February 12, and granted the MEA an extension until the end of January to file its response. Adv Shane Gomes Pereira, advocate with Allan F C Andrade is representing the petitioner while Aadv Raviraj Chodankar is the Central Government’s Standing Counsel for the respondents.
The petitioner initially approached the HC after the rejection of his OCI registration application on the grounds of his revoked Indian passport. He argued that he is entitled to OCI status due to his previous Indian citizenship and added that he was not provided a reason for the rejection.
Fernandes also pointed out that there is no provision under the Citizenship Act, 1955 for rejection or cancellation of registration as an OCI due to the revocation of the passport. He further submitted that rejection of his application for an OCI is, in fact, contrary to the provisions of the Act.
Explaining his naturalisation process leading to Portuguese citizenship in 2013, the petitioner noted the requirement to present an Indian passport for obtaining a Portuguese passport, which led him to reapply for Indian citizenship.
Despite obtaining a Portuguese passport in 2022, the petitioner’s attempt to surrender his Indian passport was rejected in January 2023, leading to its revocation per the Passport Act 1967 and the MEA circular dated November 30, 2022.
Although he applied for an OCI card in February 2023, the FRRO deemed him ineligible due to the revoked passport.
It is pertinent to note that a large number of persons from Goa whose births are registered in Portugal, have been affected by the MEA circular issued in November 2022, as they have been deemed ineligible by the FRRO to apply for OCI cards.