‘Missionary activities not prohibited in India, Article 25 applies to all, not only Indians’: Delhi HC

Delhi HC also asked authorities to ensure that the petitioner faces no impediment in entering the country. The Court was hearing Dr Christo Thomas Philip's petition against the Union of India.

The Delhi High Court has ruled that missionary activities are not prohibited in India. The Court was hearing a case where a doctor’s OCI was cancelled by authorities claiming that he was carrying out evangelical, medical missionary and conversion activities.

The Court directed the authorities to restore the doctor’s OCI card is restored. The authorities were also asked to ensure that the petitioner faces no impediment in entering the country. The Court was hearing Dr Christo Thomas Philip’s petition against the Union of India.

The Court concluded, “Thus, the petitioner‟s has a right to practice his faith and his rendering medical service, even if it is for the furtherance of his religion, cannot be denied. 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.”

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The Court observed that the authorities have been unable to produce any law that proscribes missionary activity by OCI card holders. “It was contended on behalf of the respondents that the visa granted to the petitioner does not permit to carry out any such activities. However, the respondents have been unable to refer to any law which proscribes an OCI cardholder from carrying out any such activity.”

The authorities had cancelled the petitioner’s OCI card under section 7D (e) of the Citizenship Act which states “it is necessary so to do in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of India, friendly relations of India with any foreign country, or in the interests of the general public”.

The Court declared that it found no material evidence to suggest that the doctor was indulging in conversion activities. It said, “There is no material to hold that the petitioner has been indulging in conversion activities or any of the activities has led to public unrest
and law and order problems. This conclusion is also bereft of any  foundation whatsoever, as there is no whisper of any allegation that any activity of the petitioner had led to any public unrest or law and order problem.”

The Court also declared that the decision to cancel the petitioner’s OCI card was “perverse” and against the “secular values” of the Secularism. It said, “This Court is, in no manner of doubt, that the decision of the CGI that it is necessary to cancel the petitioner’s OCI Card in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, is wholly perverse and militates against the secular values engrafted in the Constitution of India.”

It was also ruled that rights under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution are granted to every person all across the world and not just Indian citizens. The Court observed, “It is clear from the plain language of Article 25 that all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and have the right to profess, practice and propagate religion. Article 25 is not restricted to the citizens of this country but is available to all persons.”

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