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Foreigners being served ‘Leave India’ notices: How does Indian law define ‘anti-govt’ activities for them?

Topics Covered:  Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

Foreigners being served ‘Leave India’ notices: How does Indian law define ‘anti-govt’ activities for them?

What to study?

For Prelims: Provisions regulating foreigners’ stay in India.

For Mains: How does Indian law define ‘anti-govt’ activities for them?

Context: Five foreigners had have asked to leave India for violating visa norms by participating in anti-CAA protests.

How does Indian law define ‘anti-govt’ activities for them?

According to visa guidelines laid out by the MHA, foreign nationals shall be required to strictly adhere to the purpose of visit declared while submitting the visa application. However, a foreign national (other than a Pakistani national) coming to India on any type of visa will be allowed to avail activities permitted under tourist visa. However, there are no provisions specified under “anti-government” activities subhead. The absence of any such provision in visa laws or Foreigner’s Act makes it necessary for the government to define “anti-government” activities under a statute.

What do ‘anti-government’ activities mean for an Indian national?

According to the lawyers, “anti-government” activities are those which are listed as punishable under Section 124A (sedition) of the Indian Penal Code. Section 124A IPC states: “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which a fine may be added; or, with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which a fine may be added; or, with fine.”

Does a foreigner on Indian visa have a right to protest?

Right to protest peacefully is enshrined under Article 19(1)(a) of Indian Constitution which guarantees the freedom of speech and expression. Article (19)(b) guarantees the citizens of the country the right to assemble peacefully and without arms. Since Article 14 of the Constitution ensures equality to any person before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India, foreigners also have the right to protest peacefully. Besides, Article 21 of Indian Constitution states: “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law.” And protesting falls under his personal liberty. Being a part of a peaceful protest isn’t illegal and thus, being a part of it isn’t anything wrong even if that is against the Indian government.

Can a foreigner be asked to leave India without specifying the act committed by him or her amounting to the order?

The government does not have unfettered powers to impose such an order without furnishing reasons. This was clarified by the Delhi High Court in a 2019 case, where a Pakistani national was served a leave India notice without specifying the reason.

Observations made by the legal Experts :

  1. Despite fundamental rights being applicable only to the citizens of the country, with respect to Article 21, they can also be extended to foreigners.
  2. So, the government needs to list out the acts which it considers as anti-government before asking any foreigner to leave.

 

Insta link:

Prelims link:

What is CAA ans what are it’s key provisions?

What are the constitutional rights available to foreigners?

 

Mains Link:

How does Indian law define ‘anti-govt’ activities for foreigners? What are the constitutional rights enjoyed by foreigners in India? Discuss.

 

Sources: the Hindu.