Karnataka High Court: In a big relief to American-Kannada actor Chatan A. Kumar, the Bench of M. Nagaprasanna*, J., in his order dated 21-04-2023, directed the respondents not to precipitate the matter vis-à-vis cancellation of the actor’s OCI card till the next date of hearing. However, the Court in clear terms directed Chatan Kumar to submit an affidavit that he would refrain from tweeting anything about the judiciary and matters that are sub-judice and that he would delete his previous tweets that are against the judiciary and matters that are sub-judice.
Chatan Kumar who is a prominent actor and activist, and full bright scholar, in 2018, applied for Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card, which was issued by the Foreigners Regional Registration Office. The actor claimed to be doing social service and had helped thousands of persons during COVID-19 lockdown and has been collaborating with the Social Welfare Department to ensure that the benefits of rehabilitation reach the devadasi women and traditional artists from marginalized communities. Since he was a frequent traveller to the United States to visit his family members, the OCI card was sought and was granted.
However, on 08-06-2022, the FRRO, Bureau of Immigration, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India issued a show cause notice on Chatan Kumar seeking to show cause as to why his OCI card should not be cancelled. In the show-cause notice, it was alleged that Chatan Kumar was involved in the criminal activities which caused hatred and disharmony against the communities in Karnataka; and that he had earlier violated all COVID norms. The respondents invoked Sections 7-D(b) and 7-D(e) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 for cancelling the OCI card.
He sent his reply to the notice and on consideration of the reply, which the department found unsatisfactory the impugned order was passed which sought to cancel the registration of the actor as OCI cardholder.
The actor’s counsels submitted that the actor is entitled to an opportunity of hearing, apart from issuance of a show cause notice, which admittedly has not been afforded. It was argued that for Section 7D(b) and (e) to get attracted, the offence must be against the national interest, or his acts should be inimical thereof.
It was further submitted that if the impugned order is not stayed, the actor is likely to be deported, and if the OCI card gets cancelled and he would be an illegal immigrant in the nation. Therefore, the counsels sought protection for the actor till the next date of hearing.
Per contra, the respondents vehemently opposed the grant of any relief to the actor. It was submitted by the respondents that actor is in the habit of tweeting about the judiciary and the matters that are sub-judice.
Perusing the facts and contentions of the parties, the Court directed the respondents to not cancel the actor’s OCI until the next date of hearing. The matter has been listed on 02-06-2023 for next hearing.
The Court granted the afore-stated protection to Chatan Kumar upon condition that he restrain himself from commenting upon the judiciary and sub-judice matter on social media. However, the Court also warned Chatan Kumar that the interim protection granted by the Court would be vacated if he violated the undertaking.
[Chatan Kumar v. Union of India, 2023 SCC OnLine Kar 17, decided on 21-04-2023]
*Order written by Justice M. Nagaprasanna
Advocates who appeared in this case :
Petitioner- Aditya Sondhi, Sr. Adv.;
Respondent- Shanthi Bhushan, Deputy Solicitor General of India for FRRO and Union of India and Aruna Shyam, Additional Advocate General appearing for the State.