Delhi HC seeks Centre's stand on French journalist Vanessa Dougnac's plea over refusal to permit journalistic activities

French journalist Vanessa Dougnac in 2022 received a communication from the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer, Delhi that she had been denied permission to carry out journalistic activities in India

March 04, 2024 06:48 pm | Updated 06:48 pm IST - New Delhi

The Delhi High Court on March 4 sought the Centre's stand on a petition by French journalist Vanessa Dougnac, an OCI card holder, against the denial of permission to carry out journalistic activities in India.

Justice Subramonium Prasad issued notice on her petition and asked the Union government to file its response.

"Since the matter concerns the right of an OCI [overseas citizenship of India] card holder, the matter needs immediate attention," the judge said.

Advocate Vrinda Bhandari, appearing for the petitioner, contended that Ms. Dougnac's application was "closed" by the authorities without giving any material reason. She emphasised that the petitioner had been living in India for over 23 years and was married to an Indian citizen.

The central government lawyer said the law was clear that an OCI card holder cannot undertake journalistic activities and one has to apply for a "journalist visa" for this purpose. He also said a decision of the authorities was awaited on the issue of cancellation of her OCI status as well over "propaganda" to "show the country in a bad light".

In her petition, Ms. Dougnac said in September 2022, she received a communication from the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer, Delhi that she had been denied permission to carry out journalistic activities in India.

The plea said the denial was ex-facie illegal and arbitrary and the "summary one-line order" was passed mechanically, without any application of mind and in complete violation of the principles of natural justice and due process.

"The petitioner was the longest-serving foreign correspondent in India. However, pursuant to the impugned order, it became impossible for her to work and earn her livelihood in India.

"Despite multiple informal and formal attempts at resolving the issue with Respondent numbers one and two, trying to understand the reasons behind the impugned order and trying to get another OCI Activity Permission to undertake journalistic activities, the petitioner did not receive any satisfactory response. Consequently, on 16.02.2024, she was forced to leave India and return to France," said the petition.

The plea added that the rejection order was disproportionate and unreasonably restricted her freedom of speech and expression and freedom of carrying on her profession and occupation, under Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g) of the Constitution. It is also stated that the order was against the right to dignity.

The matter would be heard next on March 15.

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