Observing that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act casts a duty on the Union Ministry of Home Affairs to cancel the Indian citizenship granted to a foreigner, after s/he gets divorced, the Bombay High Court on Thursday ordered a Canadian woman to surrender her Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card.
A bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Milind Jadhav was dealing with a plea filed by the Canadian woman, challenging the communication of the Home Ministry asking her to surrender her OCI card.
Notably, the OCI cardholders, though remain citizens of their country enjoy certain privileges such as multiple entry Visa, exemption from foreigners registrations, parity with Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in some aspects.
The woman, a Canadian national, had married a Bhopal-based man in December 2016 as per the Hindu Marriage Act. She was granted an OCI card by the Home Ministry in February 2019.
However, things went worse between the couple and in May last year, the husband moved a petition before a Family Court in Bhopal seeking a divorce.
The woman, however, filed a separate petition before the Bandra Family Court in Mumbai seeking restitution of conjugal rights, meaning, that she urged the court to issue a directive to her husband to continue cohabitation with her.
She had also petitioned the Supreme Court seeking a directive to transfer her husband's divorce plea from Family court, Bhopal, to the Bandra court.
However, even before the SC could decide her plea, the Bhopal court had dissolved their marriage and granted divorce to her husband.
And subsequently, the Home Ministry issued a notice to her in February this year, asking her to surrender the OCI card.
Before Justice Jamdar, the Canadian national took exception to the notices issued by the Home Ministry on the ground that her embryos were being preserved at a cryopreservation centre in Mumbai.
She even relied upon the orders of the Bandra Family court ordering status quo in respect of the embryos preservation and also a flat in the city.
Having heard the contentions, the judges perused the provisions of the Citizenship Amendment Act and noted that the Central government was empowered to register a foreigner as a spouse of an Indian citizen as an OCI cardholder after imposing certain conditions.
"Therefore, OCI card granted under the provisions of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, is liable to be cancelled upon dissolution of marriage by a competent court of law. The special privileges granted to an OCI cardholder can then be withdrawn," Justice Jamdar held in his orders.
The bench noted that the woman was given the OCI card only after her marriage, however, the same was dissolved by a Bhopal court in February last year.
"Thus, the provisions of the Citizenship Act has come into operation," the judges opined.
The bench further noted that the divorce decree issued by the Bhopal court wasn't stayed by any High Court. And that the SC too did not stay the divorce orders.
"The provisions of the Citizenship Act casts a duty on the home ministry to take necessary steps regarding the OCI card issued on spouse basis if the marriage is dissolved by the competent court of law. Therefore the notices issued by the ministry cannot be said to be illegal, nor the ministry can be restrained from giving effect to the law," the judges held while dismissing the woman's plea.