HC quashes ‘leave India’ notice issued to Polish student for anti-CAA rally
The court said the right to life and personal liberty includes that to have political views and participate in political activities as guaranteed to all people in India. It said the right cannot be curtailed or fettered.
The Calcutta high court on Wednesday quashed a notice issued to a Polish student asking him to leave India for participating in an anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) rally in Kolkata, saying the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution apply to “all human beings” in the country and not just citizens.
“A valid right to reside in India goes hand-in-hand with such fundamental rights,” justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya said in his order. The order added the right to life and personal liberty includes that to have political views and participate in political activities as guaranteed to all people in India. It said the right cannot be curtailed or fettered.
Kamil Siedcznski, a student at Kolkata’s Jadavpur University, was issued the notice in February a month after he participated in the rally. He was asked to leave by March 10. Siedcznski moved the high court after unsuccessfully requesting the authorities to let him complete his final semester in August.
The passage of the CAA in December to fast-track the citizenship process for non-Muslims, who have entered India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh before December 31, 2014, triggered protests across the country. Opponents of the law insist it is discriminatory and unconstitutional as it leaves out Muslims and links citizenship to faith in a secular country.
The court called the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO)’s move to issue the notice a paranoid overreaction. It added a confidential intelligence report cited in the notice did not disclose any valid grounds for his expulsion.
The court cited Siedcznski’s qualifications and added he is an expert on several oriental languages and has comprehensive knowledge of South Indian and South Asian history.
It said the right of the petitioner, as recognised by Article 21, which says “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law” is to be harmoniously read with Article 19 (freedom of speech), which operates in a different field, pertaining to Indian citizens only.
“The basic and fundamental rights of a foreigner, associated with life and personal liberty, inhere in all persons living in India, citizen or foreigner, not only by virtue of Article 21 of the Constitution but also go along with a healthy human existence, which is the birthright of any human being, including the petitioner,” the order said.
The order said such rights are also recognised by the UN as well as several charters and treaties between nations. Hence, such rights cannot be fettered by limited use of the term “citizens” in Article 19, it added.
The court rejected the claim that participating in an anti-government agitation amounted to a violation of visa norms. It added since the student visa confers the right on Siedcznski’s to live in India up to August, he has the right to pursue his intellectual interests.
Phiroze Edulji, the Centre’s lawyer, refused to comment on the order. “No decision has been taken yet whether we will move a division bench,” said Edulji.
A German exchange student, a Norwegian tourist, and a Bangladeshi student were also asked in December and February to leave India for participating in anti-CAA protests in Chennai, Kerala and West Bengal.