New Delhi: The Karnataka high court granted interim protection from deportation to actor and activist Chetan Kumar ‘Ahimsa’, whose Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card was cancelled for alleged involvement in unlawful activities.
However, the court also granted protection to the actor – who has been a critic of Hindutva and Brahmanism – on the condition that he deletes his tweets which were critical of the judiciary.
According to Bar and Bench, the single-judge bench of Justice M. Nagaprasanna directed the government to refrain from cancelling his OCI card until the next date of hearing. The cancellation would have led to his deportation due to the cancellation of his visa.
However, the interim protection was subject to Kumar filing an affidavit, within the next four days, affirming that he would “encourage restraint on the tweets qua judiciary and matters that are sub-judice and further undertakes that he would delete the tweets that are against the judiciary and matters that are sub-judice”.
The high court noted that prima facie, he was entitled to an opportunity of hearing apart from the issuance of a show cause notice. “The acts of the petitioner must be established that it is inimical to the national interest, for which the respondents need to justify by way of filing the statement of objections,” the judge said, according to Bar and Bench.
Kumar has been a critic of Hindutva and Brahmanism. He was arrested on March 21 for a tweet in which he stated that “Hindutva is built on lies.” In February 2022, he was arrested for commenting on one of the Karnataka high court judges who was hearing the challenge to a ban on the hijab in government schools.
In a February 16, 2022 tweet, the actor noted that a judge in the ‘hijab ban’ case had allegedly made “disturbing comments” in an earlier rape case. Chetan was referring to a 2020 order in which the judge had observed that it was “unbecoming of an Indian woman” to “fall asleep” after she is “ravished”, granting advance bail to a rape accused.
Earlier this month, the actor received a letter from the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) dated March 28, instructing him to return his OCI card within 15 days of receiving the letter. He also received a letter from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) saying that his OCI was cancelled with immediate effect because of alleged ‘anti-national’ activities and derogatory comments on judges.
OCI is a category of immigration status granted to foreign nationals of Indian origin, which gives them the ability to reside and work in India indefinitely. OCI card holders enjoy several advantages, including visa-free travel to India, employment and education opportunities, and access to specific public services and benefits. It is a misnomer, as persons who have Overseas Citizenship of India status are not actually citizens of India.
In an interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire, said that he was confident the Indian judiciary will accept that he is being unjustly and unfairly treated and nullify the decision to revoke his OCI status.