Recently many foreigners were asked to depart from the country for indulging in “anti-government” activities. They have been served leave India notices.
India’s visa guidelines on ‘anti-government’ activities
● 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.
● According to lawyers, a court can rule that whatever are defined as “anti-government” activities for Indian nationals is “anti-government” for foreign nationals too.”
Anti-Government activities according to law for Indian nationals
→ 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.
→ Some advocates argue that 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.
→ Article 21 of Indian Constitution that states: “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law.” Some are of opinion that “protesting falls under his personal liberty.”
Delhi High Court in a 2019 case ruled saying the government does not have unfettered powers to make a foreigner leave India without furnishing reasons. The government needs to list out the acts which it considers as anti-government before asking any foreigner to leave.
Kedar Nath Singh v State of Bihar, 1962
Constitutionality of Section 124A was questioned on the basis that it produces a chilling effect on free speech. It was argued that this provision was used to suppress any criticism of the government.
SC upheld the constitutionality of sedition (Section 124A), but limited its application to “acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder, or disturbance of law and order, or incitement to violence
Fundamental Rights which are available to foreigners also (Except enemy aliens): Article 14, 20, 21, 21A, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28.
Fundamental Rights available to citizens only: Article 15, 16, 19, 29 and 30.
PEPPER IT WITH
Enemy Aliens, Visa on Arrival, Tourist Visa, Dissent vs Sedition