New Delhi: Abiding by the Indian Constitution, the Delhi High Court recently restored the Overseas Citizen India (OCI) status of Dr Christo Thomas Philip stating that, “all persons in this country have a right to practice their faith in the manner they consider fit so long as it does not offend any other person”. The court further added that a person has a right to practice his faith and his rendering medical service, even if it is for furtherance of his religion, cannot be denied.
Dr Philip had challenged the cancellation of his OCI registration by the Consulate General of India (CGI), Houston, for alleged missionary activities in Bihar.
Medical Dialogues had earlier reported that after being asked to approach the government and presenting his case before an appellate authority, which upheld the consulate’s decision, Dr Philip filed a fresh petition challenging the authority’s decision. He also challenged the consulate’s decision as well as the ‘look-out circular’ issued against him. Additionally, he has sought directions from the court to the authorities to permit him to visit his family members living in Kerala.
The doctor, in his plea claimed that the action was taken against him without any evidence and there was no basis for coming to the conclusion that he was involved in missionary and evangelical activities in India leading to unrest and law-and-order problems.
In response to the plea, the Delhi High Court said that Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) appear to enjoy the fundamental rights of equality before law and freedom of speech and expression in the same way as any other Indian citizen does. The court’s observation came while asking the Centre to place before it the material based on which an intelligence report had recommended cancellation of the OCI registration of a US-based Indian-origin doctor.
Subsequently, in a judgement quashing the cancellation order issued by CGI, Justice Vibhu Bhakru observed that the respondents have produced no law that proscribes missionary activities. And, the impugned orders, which proceed on the assumption that such activities are against the law of the land, are fundamentally flawed.
The bench added: “There is no material whatsoever that could even remotely suggest that the cancellation of the petitioner’s OCI Card is in the interest of general public. On the contrary, if the statements in the articles published on the website (the printout of which is relied upon by CGI) is believed, the cancellation of the petitioner’s OCI card would deprive some of the patients belonging to the poorer section much needed medical assistance and such a decision, therefore, would be contrary to public interest rather than in favour of public interest.”
The recent court order quotes, “all persons in this country have a right to practice their faith in the manner they consider fit so long as it does not offend any other person”.
the petitioner‟s has a right to practice his faith and his rendering medical service, even if it is for furtherance of his religion, cannot be denied. The respondents have produced no law thatproscribes missionary activities. And, the impugned orders, which proceed on the assumption that such activities are against the law of the land, are fundamentally flawed.
It added that the order passed by the Centre was “wholly perverse and militates against the secular values engulfed in the Indian Constitution”.
Dr Phillip was born in Kerela and was granted U.S citizenship in 2012. In the same year, he was registered as OCI cardholder and was further issued a life long visa.
He even got himself registered with the Medical Council of India(MCI) in 2014 and since then he has been practising as a doctor in Duncan Hospital in Raxaul, Bihar.
However, in 2016 he was informed by certain immigrant officials that he would not be allowed to enter India and his passport was seized. He was deported to Istanbul right away where he was detained in the detention cell. Aggrieved by this he moved to the Delhi High Court.