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Delhi High Court issues notice to Centre on cancellation of Swedish Professor Ashok Swain’s OCI card

The High Court of Delhi on Monday issued notice on a petition filed by Sweden-based Professor of Indian origin Ashok Swain against a fresh order issued by the Union of India on July 30 cancelling his OCI card.

The Single-Judge Bench of Justice Subramonium Prasad directed the Central government to submit its response on Swain’s plea and listed the matter for further hearing on November 9.

The academician had challenged the July 30 order of the Centre, which was issued after the High Court on July 10 quashed a similar order passed by the Union government and directed it to pass a detailed order giving reasons for exercising its powers under Section 7D(e) of the Citizenship Act, 1955.

Swain contended in his petition that despite ‘specific’ and ‘unequivocal’ directions passed by the High Court to pass a detailed order, the Embassy of India to Sweden and Latvia had issued a fresh order in a ‘callous’ manner by merely paraphrasing the provisions of law.

The petitioner apprised the High Court about his ailing mother aged about 78 years, who was suffering from various medical ailments such as Diabetes, High Blood Pressure and other age-related diseases.

He said being the only son, it was his duty to visit India and attend to his ailing mother. Swain added that he has not been to the country in the past three years.

Earlier on July 10, the High Court had quashed the February 2, 2022 order passed by the Embassy of India to Sweden and Latvia, cancelling Swain’s OCI Card under Section 7D(e) of the Citizenship Act.

Noting that there was no application of mind in passing the order, the Single-Judge Bench of Justice Subramonium Prasad had observed that the Central government merely used Section 7D(e) of the Citizenship Act as a ‘mantra’ and did not furnish any reasons for revoking the OCI status of Swain.

The High Court directed the Union of India to pass a fresh, detailed order within three weeks, stating reasons for cancellation of the petitioner’s OCI card. The Bench further observed that it has not expressed any opinion on the merits of 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.

The lawyer representing the Central government earlier apprised the High Court that Swain’s OCI card was cancelled due to his alleged involvement in activities ‘prejudicial’ to the ‘security and stability’ of the nation, its ‘sovereignty and integrity,’ and the country’s ‘friendly’ relations with other countries.

Appearing for Swain, Advocate Aadil Singh Boparai contended that he never gave any inflammatory speech and there were no specific instances or material to substantiate the allegations that he indulged in anti-India activities.

The Counsel further submitted that being a well-known scholar and Academician, it was part of Swain’s job to analyse and criticise certain policies of the present government.

The Indian origin Academician said that he cannot be either witch-hunted or made to suffer for his views on political dispensation of the ruling government or their policies.

He argued that mere criticism of the policies of the current dispensation shall not tantamount to anti-India activities under Section 7D(e) of the Citizenship Act, 1955.

Filed by Advocates Ayesha Jamal, Srishti Khanna, Sachin Kumar and Sidhant Saraswat, the petition contended that the Government of India had granted OCI card to Swain, who has been living in Sweden for the past 32 years, on January 14, 2020.

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 unreasonable,’ which was 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 show cause notice was issued to him under the Citizenship Act.

(Case title: Ashow Swain vs Union of India & Ors)

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