HC seeks Centre's reply on offloading of Greenpeace activist

The "offloading" of Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai from an aircraft to London today came under judicial scrutiny, with the Delhi High Court asking the Government to respond to her petition challenging the move to bar her from leaving India.

New Delhi: The "offloading" of Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai from an aircraft to London today came under judicial scrutiny, with the Delhi High Court asking the Government to respond to her petition challenging the move to bar her from leaving India.

 The High Court will hear the matter on February 6 when the Union Home Ministry, Intelligence Bureau and Bureau of Immigration have been asked to spell out their stand on her immediate plea to travel to United Kingdom on February 11.

 Pillai has sought permission to travel to London to make a presentation before British MPs on alleged human rights violation at Mahan in Madhya Pradesh which, she claimed, was the reason for her to be offloaded from the flight at the IGI airport here on January 11.

 Justice Rajiv Shakdher also issued notices to the Ministry and others on the activist's demand for compensation of Rs one crore. She has contended that disallowing her from travelling to London was "completely unlawful and malafide and without any authority of law" and demanded quashing of the alleged 'look out circular' against her.

 She has also sought expunging of the endorsements made on her passport when she was taken off from the flight by immigration officials.

 Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for Pillai, submitted that the concerned authorities be asked to remove her name from any database containing names of individuals barred from leaving the country.

 The counsel said an enquiry should be ordered into the "illegal, wrongful and malafide conduct" of the officials and sought that the wrongdoers be punished if found guilty.

"The Petitioner has been arbitrarily and without authority of law prevented from exercising her fundamental right to travel out of India, which is an integral facet of personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21, without following the procedure established by law," the Greenpeace activist's petition said.

"Her fundamental freedoms to express herself as well as freedom to practice her profession protected under Article 19(1) of the Constitution have been subject to unreasonable restrictions, which is patently illegal and arbitrary," it said.

 Jaising submitted that Pillai does not have any criminal conviction against her nor has there been any order impounding or revoking her passport by the concerned Passport Authority.

"She (Pillai) is not evading any trial or arrest under any law, for which a lookout circular is to be issued. She is the victim of the system," the counsel added.

37-year-old Pillai in her petition said that she has challenged her "offloading" and the 'Look Out Circular' issued on her, which had resulted in the stamping of "offload" on her passport by the immigration officials.

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