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Ms Devyani Khobragade passport issue

IFS officer Devyani Khobragade was in news again. Her daughters were found possessing Indian as well as U.S passports which is illegal. This amount to dual citizenship which means a person cannot be a citizen of two countries.

Ms. Khobragade is an Indian Diplomat and her husband is an U.S citizen. Even then her daughters should have obtained the passport of only one country.

As per the laws in India, one cannot posses Indian as well as any other country’s passport {Indian Passport Act, 1967 Sec. 12(1)(a)}.

Though India has relaxed the citizenship norms and privileges to passport holders of other countries, there is no provision of dual citizenship (i.e. Citizenship of India as well as other country)

Let us understand the citizenship process in India:

The citizenship provisions though mentioned in the constitution of India; the rules and regulations for acquiring and termination of Indian citizenship are mentioned in the ‘Citizenship Act of 1955’.

This act provide for a single citizenship i.e. a person can be only citizen of Indian Union and no separate state citizenship is allowed (i.e. no double citizenship). Similarly a person cannot enjoy both Indian and some other countries citizenship (i.e. no dual citizenship).

This means that we provided economic and political rights only to Indian citizens and all others who hold foreign passports would enter India only on visa basis.

But over a period of time, we did allow certain privileges to Indians who hold foreign passports. This is done through the PIO and OCI schemes.


  • PIO (Person of Indian Origin)

This is issued to any person currently holding foreign passport, who can prove Indian Origin upto 3 generations before. It is valid for 15 years (exception in some special cases).

The PIO card applicant has to be a person of Indian origin who is a citizen of any country, other than Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan, China, Nepal; or  a person who has held an Indian passport at any time or is the spouse of an Indian Citizen or PIO.

On the other hand the OCI card is for foreign nationals who were eligible to become a citizen of India on 26/1/1950 (the day on which Constitution came into effect) or was a citizen of India as on after that date.

The PIO Card Program came into effect on 15 September 2002.

Eligibility for PIO

  • Foreign born children of both Indian citizen parents.
  • Should not be citizen of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Nepal, Pakistan or Sri-Lanka. It periodically includes Iran also.

Privileges for PIO

  • Exemption from registration at Foreigner’s Regional Registration Office (FRRO) for a period of stay less than 180 days.
  • Acquire, hold transfer or dispose of immovable property in India, except for agriculture properties.
  • Their children can obtain admission in any educational institution in India under PIO quota.

Restrictions on PIO

  • Not eligible for any political rights.
  • Cannot visit restricted area or protected areas without permission.
  • Cannot undertake projects such as mountaineering, research and missionary work without permission.
  • Compulsory reporting to police if staying for more than 180 days.
  • OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India)

In response to persistent demands for “dual citizenship” from developed countries, OCI was introduced by amending The Citizenship Act, 1955 in August 2005. Overseas Citizenship of India is not a full citizenship of India. OCI is not an actual citizen of India and thus provision of OCI does not amount to dual citizenship.

It is substitute for an Indian visa and therefore, the passport which displays the lifetime visa must be carried by the OCI holders, while travelling to India.

The introduction of Overseas Indian Citizenship does not entitle people who have acquired, or planning to acquire, foreign nationality, to retain their Indian passports. The law continues to require that Indian citizens who take foreign nationality must immediately surrender their Indian passports.

The overseas citizen of India can apply for a new type of visa called “U” visa which is multi-purpose, multiple-entry, life-long visa. This entitles the holder to visit India at any time for any length of time and for any purpose.

Eligibility for OCI

  • Person must be a citizen of India on 26th January, 1950 or at any time thereafter
  • Person must be eligible to become a citizen of India on 26th January 1950.
  • Belonged to territory that became part of India after 15th, August 1947.
  • Is a child or grandchild of a person described above
  • Has never been a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh

Privileges for OCI  

  • It is valid for lifelong under applied conditions.
  • Not required to report to the police for any length of stay.
  • Can apply for Indian citizenship after 5 years. Before applying must have stayed in India at least 1 year continuously.
  • Students can study under NRI quota.

Restrictions for OCI

  • Same as PIO
  • The OCI will enjoy all the rights and privileges available to NRI excluding the right to invest in agriculture and plantation properties.
  • NRI (Non-Residential Indian)

NRI is a citizen of India who holds Indian passport and has temporarily emigrated to another country for six month or more for employment, residence, education or any other purpose. They have added advantage in investment in agriculture and plantation properties.

Analysis of Devyani Khobragade case

Her daughter posses regular citizenship of India as per Indian diplomat citizenship. But, as her husband is US citizen and her daughter born in US they got US citizenship on ascent and birth basis. Hence, they posses citizenship of India and US both. This violates Indian citizenship norm which states that a person has to cancel his Indian citizenship before accepting foreign citizenship. It violates Indian Passport Act 1967 section 12(1)(a), which punishes a person with minimum 1 year imprisonment or upto 5 years along with a payment of Rs 1000 to 50000.

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