News APP

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  gplay

This article was first published 9 years ago  » News » Travel ban on Greenpeace activist removed by court

Travel ban on Greenpeace activist removed by court

Last updated on: March 12, 2015 21:17 IST
Get Rediff News in your Inbox:

The Delhi high court on Thursday set aside the government’s decision to offload Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai from an aircraft to London two months back, saying it was “illegal” and that the right to criticise cannot be “muzzled” by the state.

Justice Rajiv Shakdher said Pillai has a fundamental right to travel abroad and also she has every right to hold a different opinion on development policies and this cannot be the sole ground to restrict her movement.

Besides quashing the look out circular issued against her by the Intelligence Bureau, the court also asked the government to remove her name from the database of individuals barred from leaving the country.

DON'T MISS: What happened to Priya Pillai could happen to many of us

Though the court declined to order inquiry against the officials involved in her offloading, it directed Bureau of Immigration to expunge the endorsements made on the activist’s passport while offloading her from an aircraft on January 11 while she was going to London to make a presentation before British MPs on an alleged human rights violation at Mahan in Madhya Pradesh.

“The core aspect of democracy is the freedom of an individual to be able to freely operate, within the framework of the laws enacted by Parliament. The individual should be able to order his or her life any way he or she pleases, as long as it is not violative of the law or constitutes an infraction of any order or direction of a duly constituted court, tribunal or any statutory authority for that matter.

“Amongst the varied freedoms conferred on an individual (the citizen), is the right of free speech and expression, which necessarily includes the right to criticise and dissent. Criticism, by an individual, may not be palatable, even so, it cannot be muzzled,” the court said.

“There was no basis for the government to issue an LOC against her. The decision taken to detain her at the airport on January 11, 2015 in my opinion, was illegal being violative of the Pillai’s right under Article 21 and 19(1)(a) of the Constitution,” the court added.

The judge, meanwhile, has not granted any compensation to Pillai saying “it may not be appropriate to embark upon an exercise of ascertaining damages claimed by Pillai, while exercising writ jurisdiction”.

“It would, however, be open to Pillai to take recourse to an appropriate civil remedy to agitate her rights in that behalf. Needless to say, if such an action is taken recourse to, the respondents will have a right to defend the same, in accordance with law,” the judge said.

Justifying its decision, the government had said that her visit to London was a serious threat to the nation and the speech she was going to make there is anti-national and had “potential for mischief” against India’s economic interests.

The court, however, turned down the government’s argument and said Pillai’s right to travel abroad and interact with the relevant stake holders (British Parliamentarians), to persuade them, to have entities incorporated in their country, to fall in line, with the developmental ethos, which is close to her ideology and belief, cannot be impeded only because it is not in sync with policy perspective of the executive”.

“The sense that I get, upon perusal of the stand taken by the respondents (government) in their pleadings, is that, they do not approve of the view expressed by civil right activists, in forums outside the country, which tend to portray, according to them, an inaccurate picture of the state of human rights in the country.

“In other words, they are concerned by the fact that such portrayal generates an atmosphere, which retards investment of foreign funds, in vital infrastructural projects. Whether this concern is valid or not, in my opinion, is not the issue. The reason for the same is, that, developmental activities, not now, but for ages have always had a counter point,” the judge said.

The stand of government that they had prevented Pillai from leaving the country as she intended to testify before British Parliamentarians, which in turn, would have negatively impacted the image of India – in my view, is a stand, which is completely untenable,” it added.

The court in its 39-page order said that the advancement in knowledge base, and the ability of common citizen to access information vis-a-vis public projects, has only made dissent more strident and vigorous.

“Whether one model of development has to be rolled out as against the other, is an on-going debate. This debate impinges upon all kinds of developmental projects, which includes projects, such as, mining, setting up of nuclear plants, construction of roads through forests -- none of which have stopped if, the executive of the day, is convinced of their need and necessity,” it said.

It also held that “travelling abroad and espousing views, without any criminal intent of the kind adverted to above, cannot, in my opinion, put Pillai in the category of an anti-national element”.

The court observed that Pillai believes that the rights of tribal communities residing in Mahan would get impacted if, a coal mine, were to be opened in that area.

“This, is a view, which the executive may or may not agree with. That by itself, cannot be a reason to prevent Pillai from exercising her fundamental right to travel abroad and, thereby, in effect, disable her from expressing her views on the subject.

“In today’s time and space, because of advent of technology, and especially, the internet, the universe has been reduced to a global-village. What occurs in a remote part of any country, gets immediately known the world over, either via television or through social media,” the court said.

It further said that the argument of the respondents that they would not permit Pillai to travel out of India, for the stated purpose, but otherwise, would place no impediment in her travel, is clearly flawed.

“Pillai, need not travel abroad to express her view point. She can transmit her views via technological devices available to her, without having to move out of the country. But that is not the point in issue.”

The judge also said that though there is a case lodged against her, in which she has obtained bail from Mumbai court, there is no condition imposed on her movement.

A home ministry spokesperson on Thursday night said the ministry is yet to receive the court order and would react to the issue only after examining it.

Image: Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai who was offloaded from a flight to London two months back

Get Rediff News in your Inbox:
India Votes 2024

India Votes 2024