HC seeks Centre’s response on plea by Ashok Swain against cancellation of OCI card

The Delhi High Court on Monday sought response of the Centre on a plea by academician Ashok Swain challenging an order by which his Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card was cancelled.

Justice Subramonium Prasad issued notice to the Central government, through the ministries of Home Affairs and External Affairs, on the petition and granted four weeks time to file reply.

The court listed the matter for further hearing on November 9, after the petitioner’s counsel submitted that Swain’s 78-year-old mother, who lives in India, is unwell and he is the only son and has not been able to visit India in the past three years.

His counsel said there is an extreme urgency for him to visit India and attend to his ailing mother.

Swain, a resident of Sweden, approached the high court against the July 30 order cancelling his OCI card, saying a non-speaking order was passed.

“Although, it is the alleged case of the respondent (Centre) that the petitioner (Swain) was blacklisted for anti-India activities for allegedly spreading detrimental propaganda through his writings and speeches in various public forums; the impugned order is bereft of any particular incidence/ tweet/ writing or reason which remotely demonstrates the contention of the respondent no.3 (Embassy of India to Sweden and Latvia) that the petitioner is allegedly carrying out detrimental propaganda on public forums,” the plea, filed through advocates Aadil Singh Boparai, Srishti Khanna and Sadiq Noor, said.

It said the July 30 order does not pass the muster of a well-reasoned/detailed order as it fails to disclose any material that justifies cancellation of the petitioner’s OCI card.

Swain said being an academician, he analyses and criticises certain policies of the present government and he cannot be made to suffer for his views on the policies of the government.

“As a scholar it is his role in the society to discuss and critique the policies of government through his work. 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,” the petition said.

Swain, Professor and head of department at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University in Sweden, had earlier also approached the high court challenging cancellation of his OCI card through the February 8, 2022 order of the Central government.

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The high court, on July 10, had set aside the government’s order, saying it does not give any reasons and it “hardly gave any indication of application of mind”.

“Other than repeating the Section (under which the OCI card was cancelled) as a mantra, no reason is given in the order as to why the registration of the petitioner as a OCI card holder has been revoked,” the high court had said.

It had directed the Centre to pass a detailed order within three weeks giving reasons for exercising its powers under the Citizenship Act, 1955.

The petition said despite such specific and unequivocal directions of the high court to pass a detailed order, authorities have padded the July 30 order in a callous manner by merely para-phrasing the provisions of law.

It said the order is “ex-facie illegal, arbitrary and non-est in law” and has been passed without any application of judicial mind.

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