The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday set aside the Centre’s notice asking a Polish student to leave India for participating in a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act, ANI reported. Kamil Siedczynski had moved the High Court earlier this month, seeking a restraining order against the Centre and a recall of its notice.
A single bench of Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya directed the Centre to not give effect to the notice issued by the Foreign Regional Registration Office last month, asking Siedczynski to leave India within 14 days, for participating in “anti-government activities” contravening visa rules.
Siedczynski is a student of comparative literature at Jadavpur University and has also been translating several Polish works into Bengali. The student has appealed to the Foreign Regional Registration Office, under the Ministry of Home Affairs, to reconsider its decision.
Earlier this month, the court had stayed the notice and refrained the government from deporting Siedcynski.
The student’s advocate, Jayanta Mitra had told the High Court that Siedcynski was “persuaded” to accompany other students of Jadavpur University to an event in the New Market area of Kolkata on December 19. Siedczynski claimed he did so unwittingly and out of curiosity, and added that it was a peaceful protest attended by people from all sections of society. The student said he soon got separated from the crowd and stood on the side as a mere onlooker.
Mitra alleged that the notice issued to Siedczynski was “arbitrary and contrary to principles of natural justice and violative of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution”. The lawyer said Siedczynski was not given a reasonable opportunity to be heard before the notice was issued.
Opposing the Polish student’s appeal, the central government, however, told the court that being a student visa holder, a foreigner cannot challenge a law passed by the Indian Parliament. Central government lawyer Phiroze Edulji claimed that a foreigner cannot challenge Article 19 of the Constitution, as it was not applicable to him. Edulji added the notice was served on Siedczynski by the Foreign Regional Registration Office on the basis of a field report.
The Polish student expressed remorse for attending the demonstration and said he had realised his “mistake”. His counsel said he is in the final semester and his examinations are scheduled to be completed by August 2020.
Foreigners told to leave
The Indian government told Parliament earlier this month that it had asked five foreigners to leave the country for violating their visa norms by participating in protests against the amendments to the Citizenship Act.
Besides Siedcynski, at least three other cases have been made public. On February 14, a Bangladeshi student at West Bengal’s Visva-Bharati University was asked to leave India for taking part in “anti-government activities” after she posted pictures of Citizenship Act protests on her campus. The student, Afsara Anika Meem, a first-year student at the university, was trolled on social media after she posted the photos.
One of her friends claimed that around 250 social media posts described her as an “anti-national” even though she did not participate in the demonstrations. Her posts attracted attention from pro-government trolls who demanded that she be sent back. Meem, who is originally from Kushtia district in Bangladesh, came to India late in 2018 for a bachelors’ course in design from the university’s department of fine arts.
In December, a German exchange student at Indian Institute of Technology-Madras was sent back to his country for participating in protests against the Citizenship Act. Jakob Lindenthal was an exchange student at IIT-Madras’ Department of Physics. The Centre has also rescinded his visa. Lindenthal had said the anti-Citizenship Act demonstrations in India showed that political freedom and rule of law need the support of millions of people. During a protest in Chennai, he had carried a poster that made a reference to Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler: “1933 to 1945 – we have been there.”
A 74-year-old Norwegian woman, Janne-Mette Johansson, was also asked to leave India in December for participating in protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Kochi.
The Citizenship Amendment Act has triggered protests across India since being approved by Parliament on December 11. The legislation provides citizenship to people from six religious minority groups in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, provided they have lived in India for six years. The cut-off date is December 31, 2014. The law has attracted widespread criticism as it excludes Muslims.