HC Grants 4 More Weeks to Centre To File Response on Plea by Ashok Swain Against Cancellation of OCI Card

The Delhi High Court Tuesday granted four more weeks to the Centre to file response on a petition by academic Ashok Swain against the cancellation of his Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card.

Justice Prathiba M Singh made it clear that no further time shall be granted to the Central government to file its reply to the petition by the Sweden resident.

The high court had on December 8, 2022, issued notice and granted four weeks’ time to the Centre to state its stand.

However, on Tuesday the Centre’s counsel sought some more time to file the reply.

In his plea, the petitioner who is Professor and head of department at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University in Sweden said pursuant to a show cause notice issued in 2020, his OCI card was arbitrarily barred on the alleged premise that he was indulging in inflammatory speeches and anti-India activities.

Subsequently, on February 8, 2022, the authorities arbitrarily cancelled the OCI card without giving a fair and just opportunity to the petitioner, in violation of his Right to free movement, the plea claimed.

The petitioner emphasised that as a scholar, it is his role to discuss and critique government policies but he has never engaged in any inflammatory speeches or anti-India activities and the cancellation order was passed without giving him an opportunity to rebut the allegations or supplying him material on the basis of which proceedings were initiated.

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The plea alleged that the cancellation order is ex-facie illegal, arbitrary and non-est in law, besides being non-speaking and unreasoned and the petitioner cannot be “witch-hunted for his views on the political dispensation of the current government or their policies”.

“The petitioner has never engaged in any inflammatory speeches or anti-India activities. As a scholar it is his role in society to discuss and critique the policies of the government through his work. Being an academician, he analyses and criticises certain policies of the present government, mere criticism of the policies of the current ruling dispensation shall not tantamount to anti-India activities under Section 7D(e) of the Citizenship Act, 1955,” said the plea filed through lawyer Aaadil Singh Boparai said.

“He cannot be made to suffer for his views on the policies of the government…. The petitioner cannot be witch-hunted for his views on the political dispensation of the current government or their policies. Criticism of certain policies of the government would not amount to being an inflammatory speech or an anti-India activity,” it said.

The petitioner said he has not visited India for over two years and there is an extreme urgency in the matter as he has to visit India to attend to his ailing mother.

“The impugned (cancellation) order was passed without giving the petitioner an opportunity to rebut the allegations made against him. He was not even supplied with the material on the basis of which impugned proceedings were initiated by the petitioner. Thereby violating the principles of natural justice” the plea said.

It further informed that the petitioner filed a revision application before the authorities against the cancellation order but he has not received any communication regarding the status of the same.

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