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A Division Bench of the Bombay High Court at Goa comprising of Justice M.S. Karnik and Justice Valmiki Menezes today adjourned to 18th July the further hearing of the Writ Petition filed by Adv. Aires Rodrigues challenging the non-issuance of an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card to him.

On 15th May last year, Adv. Aires Rodrigues obtained his Portuguese Passport in Lisbon and on his return to Goa in the first week of June immediately surrendered his Indian Passport at the Goa Passport Office as was required by law.

After surrendering his Indian passport and obtaining a Surrender Certificate and all the other required documents he applied online for his OCI card only to be told by the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) at Mumbai that the new rule required six months’ residence in Goa before filing an OCI application.

After completing the requisite six months’ residence, Adv. Rodrigues once again on 25th January this year applied online for an OCI card and was given an appointment on 5th of March at FRRO Mumbai for verification of his original documents which was successfully completed on that day and paying the requisite processing fee of Rs 15000.

Three months later on 6th June 2024, Adv. Rodrigues received a one-line email from FRRO Mumbai that his OCI Application has been cancelled under Rule 32(2) of Citizenship Rules Rules, 2009.

Aggrieved by the decision of FRRO, Mumbai, Adv. Rodrigues immediately on 20th June moved the Bombay High Court at Goa through a Writ Petition. Adv. Aires Rodrigues in his petition submitted that the decision by FRRO Mumbai to cancel his OCI application was arbitrary, illegal, erroneous, unjust and contrary to law. Adv. Rodrigues further submitted that the mere one sentence decision by FRRO Mumbai without giving any reasons violated the principles of natural justice.

Now FRRO Mumbai in its reply filed before the High Court of Goa has stated that the OCI application filed by Adv. Aires Rodrigues had been rejected as he had not disclosed details of the two criminal cases against him.

Interestingly the FRRO official refers to a 2004 case registered against Adv. Aires Rodrigues and 13 other Ribandar residents for allegedly having trespassed into the Ribandar Church in which case Adv. Rodrigues and the other accused were all acquitted by the Panaji JMFC way back on 14th September 2011. The other case the FRRO official has relied on is the charge sheet filed against Adv. Rodrigues in 2019 for holding dual nationality. In that case the Panaji JMFC by an order dated 25th March 2021 while declining to take cognisance returned the charge sheet to the Crime Branch and dropped the proceedings against Adv. Rodrigues while observing that there was no finding of the Central government on whether Adv. Rodrigues had lost or given up his Indian Citizenship and acquired citizenship of a foreign country.

In his rejoinder to the reply filed by the FRRO official, Adv. Rodrigues has submitted before the High Court that in the OCI application he was required to only give details of criminal cases pending against him and convictions if any.

Adv. Rodrigues has further reiterated that the only case pending against him is regarding an alleged social media post which is before the Mapusa JMFC. In that case the North Goa Sessions Court by an order on 25th January 2024 quashed and set aside the 5th January 2023 conviction of Adv. Rodrigues and remanded the matter back to the JMFC for recording afresh his statement under 313 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Assistant Solicitor General of India Pravin Faldesai is appearing for the FRRO while Adv. Rodrigues is being represented by Senior Advocate Agnelo Diniz.

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