Delhi HC seeks Centre’s stand on Ashok Swain’s plea against cancellation of OCI card

The Uppsala University professor has claimed that mere critique of government’s policies will not amount to ‘anti-India activities’

September 11, 2023 09:50 pm | Updated 10:04 pm IST - New Delhi

View of Overseas Citizen of India Card issued to non resident Indians along with U.S. Passport. File

View of Overseas Citizen of India Card issued to non resident Indians along with U.S. Passport. File | Photo Credit: Getty Images

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

Justice Subramonium Prasad granted four weeks’ time to the Centre to file its reply and listed the matter for further hearing on November 9.

Mr. Swain, a resident of Sweden and Professor and head of department at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, approached the Delhi High Court against the July 30 order cancelling his OCI card, claiming a non-speaking order was passed.

Counsel submitted that Mr. Swain’s 78-year-old mother, who lives in India, is unwell. Counsel added that Mr. Swain, who is the only son, has not been able to visit India in the past three years and stated that it was urgent that he be allowed to attend to an ailing mother.

“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 stated.

“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,” his plea said.

“Criticism of certain policies of the government would not amount to being an inflammatory speech or an anti-India activity,” the petition added.

Mr. Swain had earlier also approached the High Court challenging cancellation of his OCI card through the February 8, 2022 order of the Central government. The High Court, on July 10, had set aside the government’s order, saying it does not give any valid reasons and it “hardly gave any indication of application of mind”.

The High Court had directed the Centre to pass a detailed order within three weeks citing reasons for exercising its powers under the Citizenship Act, 1955.

The petition said despite specific 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.

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