Article 14 of the Constitution applies to non-citizens too: Bombay High Court Goa Bench

The Goa bench of the Bombay High Court recently observe that article 14 of the Constitution, which provides for equality before law, applies not only to citizens but also to ‘non-citizens’ in India [Olga Rosnina vs the Foreigners Regional Registration Office].

A division bench of Justices Mahesh Sonak and Bharat Deshpande made the observation while ordering the authorities not to deport a foreign national since the authorities had not sought any clarification from the foreigner on alleged breach of Visa condition.

“At least a clarification could have been sought from the petitioner and upon considering the same, a decision could have been taken. This was not done. Therefore, on this short ground, we set aside the impugned deportation order,” the judges held.

In the August 7 order, the bench also emphasised that the authorities ought to have complied with the principles of natural justice and fair play, since the foreign national said that she had not violated any of her Visa conditions.

“Principles of natural justice and fair play are an essential concomitant of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. This Article protects not only the citizens but also non-citizens,” the Court said.

The Court added that the Central government must exercise its deportation powers fairly.

“Whilst the Central Government is vested with wide powers in matters of deportation, such powers must be exercised fairly and without any hint of arbitrariness. This was not some case of threat to internal security of the country or like matters,” the bench underscored.

It, therefore, quashed a deportation order passed on May 17, 2023 against the foreign national.

The authorities had claimed that the foreign national was granted a “work Visa”, but had indulged in “business” and thus violated the conditions of her Visa.

The judges, however, noted that the foreign national had resigned from her company so there was no doubt about compliance with the terms and conditions of the Visa.

After such resignation, the foreign national had also applied for a dependency visa. However, her plea was dismissed by the authorities in view of the deportation order passed against her in May.

The Court, therefore, ordered the authorities to reconsider the foreign national’s plea for a dependency visa and not to deport her at least for two months, within which her plea needs to be decided.

Advocates AD Bhobe, A Fernandes and R Prazeres appeared for the foriegn national.

Deputy Solicitor General P Faldessai represented the authorities.

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