30th June 2021
Can OCIs contest elections in Australia? Liberal and Labor parties are wrong on this as well.
This question has come up because the Labor and Liberal parties have concluded that OCIs can’t contest.
Here’s my Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card with some of the details blocked out (PDF).
The operational words in the document are “LIFETIME VISA”.
On 17 April 2019, the Indian High Commission clarified that: “OCI is not to be misconstrued as ‘dual citizenship” [Screenshot]
According to the SBS radio report, the question of OCI being considered as dual citizenship DOES NOT ARISE.
Here are the relevant sections of the Indian Citizenship Act that apply to OCIs.
The practical rights of an OCI holder are akin to the rights of a permanent resident of Australia. When I held the Indian passport I was able to be a permanent resident of Australia which gave me very similar rights (in fact MORE rights) than the OCI card does. But that did not mean that I could contest elections in Australia. I had voting rights and the right to contest elections only in India.
Now, the situation is reversed. I have an Australian passport and and Indian permanent residency.
Since I have to visit India fairly frequently to meet my family it makes economic sense to get a lifetime visa than to keep applying for short term visas – which can in the end add up to a greater cost than purchasing the OCI card. The fee for the OCI card is quite heavy – $389 including processing charges (calculator here) – in comparison, visas are much cheaper.
Holding an OCI card is NOT Indian citizenship. The Indian passport has to be surrendered in order to get the OCI card.
In my view that the section 44 restriction in the Australian Constitution on candidates does not apply to OCI card holders. The Liberal and Labor parties are wrong on this, as well. At a minimum this needs to be tested in the High Court of Australia.
=== THE CLARIFICATION ISSUED BY INDIAN HIGH COMMISSION===
Deputy High Commissioner of India to Australia, Mr PS Karthigeyan stated, “An overseas citizen of India shall not be entitled to the following rights conferred on a citizen of India.
- under article 16 of the Constitution with regard to equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.
- under article 58 of the Constitution for election as President.
- under article 66 of the Constitution for election of Vice-President.
- under article 124 of the Constitution for appointment as a Judge of the Supreme Court.
- under article 217 of the Constitution for appointment as a Judge of the High Court.
- under section 16 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950(43 of 1950) in regard to registration as a voter.
- under sections 3 and 4 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) with regard to the eligibility for being a member of the House of the People or of the Council of States, as the case may be.
- under section 5, 5A and 6 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) with regard to the eligibility for being a member of the Legislative Assembly or a Legislative Council, as the case may be, of a State.
- for appointment to public services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of any State except for appointment in such services and posts as the Central Government may by special order in that behalf specify.”
He added, “Detailed instructions and procedures on the OCI Scheme are available on the MHA’s website: www.mha.nic.in”