Monday, June 5, 2023

Cancellation of OCI Card: Delhi High Court issues notice to Centre on plea by Swedish professor Ashok Swain

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The Delhi High Court on Thursday issued notice to the Central government over a petition filed by a Swedish professor of Indian origin, challenging the cancellation of his Overseas Citizen of India (OCI card) by the Indian Embassy in Sweden.

The Single-Judge Bench of Justice Prathiba M. Singh gave four weeks’ time to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of External Affairs, along with the Indian Embassies in both Sweden and Latvia, to submit their reply on a petition filed by Ashok Swain.

The High Court then fixed February 7 as the next date of hearing in the case.

Swain heads the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University in Sweden, besides being the UNESCO Chair on International Water Cooperation since 2007. 

On January 14, 2020, the Government of India granted OCI card to Swain, who has been living in Sweden for the past 32 years.

The petitioner contended that he received a showcause notice on October 6, 2020 from the Indian Embassy, informing him that his OCI card was being arbitrarily barred on charges of his alleged indulgence in ‘inflammatory’ speeches and for his involvement in ‘anti-India’ activities. 
Swain said that no specific instance or material was referred to in the showcause notice, so as to substantiate such ‘bald’ allegations or the ‘drastic measures’ undertaken by the Respondents. 
As per the Indian-origin professor, he replied to the notice in November 2020, asking for reasons or material to corroborate the allegations but did not receive any response from the authorities.

On February 8, 2022, the Indian Embassy, without giving him an opportunity to speak, arbitrarily passed an order cancelling his OCI card, alleged the petitioner, calling the order ex-facie ‘illegal, arbitrary and non-est in law’. 
Swain said that the order was “non-speaking and unreasoned… which has been passed without any application of Judicial Mind, to the extent that it deems to be a routine/mechanical exercise of power”. 
The petitioner further said that he was unaware of the grounds on which the showcause notice was issued to him under the Citizenship Act.

Swain claimed that he has never engaged in any inflammatory speech or anti-India activity and as a scholar, his role was to ‘discuss’ and ‘criticise’ the policies of the Government through his work.

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