The Delhi High Court recently heard the plea of Angad Singh, a journalist working for VICE News, who challenged his “blacklisting” and subsequent deportation to the United States in August of the previous year. During the hearing, the court expressed skepticism about the inability to communicate the reasons for Singh’s blacklisting.
Justice Prathiba Singh, presiding over the case, acknowledged that there were issues raised that required further consideration. She stated, “At first blush, I’m not able to accept that you can’t even communicate the reasons to him as to why he has been blacklisted.”
On January 27, the court had asked the Central Government to provide instructions received from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) regarding any proceedings initiated against Singh, including the cancellation of his Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card or the issuance of any show-cause notice.
Singh, known for his involvement in producing Vice News’s documentary “India Burning” in 2020, was deported back to the US on August 23, 2022.
Advocate Swathi Sukumar, representing Singh, argued that there were two main issues at hand. First, she questioned whether an OCI cardholder could be blacklisted without the cancellation of the OCI card itself, referring to it as a “shadow ban.” Second, she questioned whether an OCI cardholder who applied for a special permit could be blacklisted without any reason provided.
Sukumar pointed out that the Central Government had filed a response indicating that they were still looking into the matter and had not issued any show-cause notice regarding Singh’s OCI card. She argued that under Section 7D of the Citizenship Act, the card had not been canceled. She also mentioned previous court judgments that allowed individuals to challenge cancellation even if it happened without their knowledge. Singh’s situation, she claimed, was particularly egregious, as he was turned away at the border without any explanation.
Advocate Anurag Ahluwalia, representing the Central Government, argued that Singh was an OCI cardholder but emphasized that for journalistic or professional activities, separate visas were required under the Foreigners Act.
When questioned by the court about Singh’s ability to enter India but not engage in journalism, Ahluwalia questioned Singh’s trustworthiness, referring to his stated intention to capture a mela (a fair) in Uttar Pradesh while the farmers’ protest was ongoing.
Ahluwalia argued, “Can that person be trusted at this stage?”
The court noted that no document had been filed on record to support these claims and remarked that without evidence, it was challenging to make a judgment. The court emphasized that as of now, Singh’s OCI card was valid.
The court also inquired whether Singh had been given an opportunity to be heard before being blacklisted. Ahluwalia responded that according to the law, authorities did not need to provide such an opportunity. He stated, “Yes, the Foreigners Act grants me the power to restrict the entry of a foreigner. He violated journalist visa, he himself gave an undertaking that whatever film I make, I will submit it to the consulate. Prior intimation is not required.”
When the court questioned the lack of reasons disclosed to Singh, Ahluwalia referred to an affidavit filed by the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) which stated that Singh had been blacklisted due to misrepresenting facts in his visa application and engaging in anti-national propaganda to defame the country in his documentary “India Burning.”
The court demanded to see the order from the consulate in New York, which was responsible for the blacklisting, but Ahluwalia argued that certain communications between the consulate and the ministry were privileged and could not be reproduced.