HC rules in favour of Greenpeace Pillai: State can’t muzzle dissent

She was offloaded from a flight to London two months on the government's orders.

By: Press Trust of India Written by Aneesha Mathur | New Delhi | Updated: March 13, 2015 2:06 am
Priya Pillai, greenpeace activist Priya Pillai, activist Priya Pillai, greenpeace, Delhi High Court, tribal rights, forest tribal rights, forest rights, MHA, ministry of home affairs Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai. (Source: Twitter)

Sending a terse message to the government against “muzzling” voices of dissent, the Delhi High Court directed authorities Thursday to expunge the “offload” remark from the passport of Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai, remove her name from a database and allow her to travel abroad.

Stating that the right of free speech and expression “necessarily includes the right to criticise and dissent”, Justice Rajiv Shakdher, in a 39-page order, said: “Criticism, by an individual, may not be palatable; even so, it cannot be muzzled. Many civil right activists believe that they have the right, as citizens, to bring to the notice of the state the incongruity in the developmental policies of the state. The state may not accept the views of the civil right activists, but that by itself, cannot be a good enough reason to do away with dissent.”

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Pillai’s right to travel abroad, the judge said, “cannot be impeded only because it is not in sync with policy perspective of the executive”.

Welcoming the order, senior advocate Indira Jaising, who represented Pillai in the case, said the decision had “elevated” the right to dissent to a constitutional right. “In today’s context, where there is a majoritarian government, the citizen must have a right to dissent,” she said.

Pillai was stopped at Delhi airport on January 11 while heading to London to speak on the alleged violation of forest right of tribals in the Mahan coal block area of Madhya Pradesh. She was later told that her name was in a database of persons who were not allowed to leave the country.

During the hearing in court, the Centre said she was stopped because her speech before a UK parliamentarian group would have created a “negative image” of India abroad and “whittle down foreign direct investments”. The government claimed that she was involved in “anti-national activities”.

Justice Shakdher said dissent with regard to development models are “always there” but “travelling abroad and espousing views” without any criminal intent “cannot, in my opinion, put Ms Pillai in the category of an anti-national element”.

“Contrarian views held by a section of people on these aspects cannot be used to describe such section or class of people as anti-national,” he said.

“If the view advanced on behalf of the respondents is accepted, it would result in conferring uncanalised and arbitrary power in the executive, which could, based on its subjective view, portray any activity as anti-national. Such a situation, in a truly democratic country, which is governed by rule of law, is best avoided.”

Justice Shakdher said “anti-national” activities under the Passports Act will “have to be confined to activities of persons who fall in the category of ‘counter-intelligence suspects and/or terrorists’ as it would be defined under reasonable restrictions to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(2) of the Constitution”.

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  1. S
    Sanjay
    Mar 12, 2015 at 12:09 pm
    Vultures who survive on the corpses of poor Indians.
    Reply
    1. A
      Atul Gurtu
      Mar 12, 2015 at 1:18 pm
      That is why we need the judiciary, to prevent arbitrary and capricious actions by the executive. What the government did was in fact unconsutional. Every citizen has a right to hold an opinion different from the government's and to travel and to make known her opinion anywhere in the world. Government should counter it with their own argumants and convince people or other countries that they make more sense. Just because Big Brother has the power, it's not done to exercise it in such a crude and blatant way. Three cheers for the judiciary!
      Reply
      1. S
        S.Gonesh
        Mar 12, 2015 at 2:59 pm
        Greenpeace is an enemy of the nation. The HC has not the power to protect this Greenpeace-member. She had all chances to put her complains before the Indian Parliament-members and had not a single justification to seek attention of former looters parliamentarians. Her thought has been poisened with anti-national propaa supplied by foreigners and her w nature has changed. She even can not put her beautiful native dress on, instead, she became a "foreign-monkey" jumping from one branch to the next one. All the foreign NGO�s -Greenpeace included- are a danger for the stability of Hindustan. Throw them out of the country! Hindustan do not need them.
        Reply
        1. D
          Damaru Prasad
          Mar 12, 2015 at 4:39 pm
          Why is IE so excitedly reporting about this girl from Greenpeace? Why? Is it so important? Angrez chale e gulami nahi i kyon? It seems you find glamor in reporting about western NGOs.
          Reply
          1. D
            dk acharya
            Dec 6, 2015 at 11:12 am
            an excellent move by the court.all the best to Priya Pillai. today i heard her views in rajya sabha tv. excellent.
            Reply
            1. M
              M. Christhu Doss
              Mar 12, 2015 at 1:41 pm
              Indian Judiciary once again made it clear that the Government cannot preserve individual freedom if it wants to silence the dissent. Priya Pillai, an activist of Greenpeace was forcefully stopped from boarding a flight to London to speak to British MPs, a couple of weeks ago. Today, the Delhi High Court has asked the Central Government to quash the lookout circular against her. Yes, this is a lesson for those who want preserve consutional rights by muzzling the dissent. The ‘guardians’ of Indian nationalism must understand that it is the judiciary which decides who is national and who is anti-national, not the self-proclaimed saviours of the ‘nation.’
              Reply
              1. G
                garth
                Mar 12, 2015 at 3:24 pm
                The last sentence in the article is not clear where one can infer that court in an indirect sense approves that the anti-national elements should be allowed to travel abroad.
                Reply
                1. G
                  Gosai
                  Mar 13, 2015 at 8:10 am
                  40% of the Indian parliamentarians have criminal record.
                  Reply
                  1. U
                    Umesh Suri
                    Mar 13, 2015 at 6:19 am
                    Freedom of speech is welcome with in the country but to go and propagate against India's development for foreign interest is questionable.
                    Reply
                    1. N
                      No Hypes
                      Mar 12, 2015 at 1:19 pm
                      This woman is an anti-national groomed in communist line!
                      Reply
                      1. A
                        Abhi Ghosh
                        Dec 28, 2015 at 8:17 pm
                        THANK GOD, STILL DEMOCRACY PREVAILS DESPITE OF THE IMPOSTOR RULING REGIME ... IT IS CERTAINLY PEOPLE'S WIN, A SIGH OF RELIEF ......
                        Reply
                        1. H
                          History
                          Mar 13, 2015 at 7:03 am
                          The image of india is the image for NDA only ? And courts would protect its own image only ? Now, she can travel to Britain and testify before British parliamentarians ?
                          Reply
                          1. H
                            History
                            Mar 12, 2015 at 10:34 pm
                            When there is a full majority government in india to govern, judges will decide upon everything from the court without any liability to people of india ?
                            Reply
                            1. P
                              pravin mahavar
                              Mar 12, 2015 at 12:18 pm
                              I think her lady do greenpiece activity
                              Reply
                              1. P
                                Praveen Keshrani
                                Mar 12, 2015 at 3:31 pm
                                It is better ,Ms Pillai should make presentation before our parliament.She should know We are not ruled by British parliament
                                Reply
                                1. R
                                  rajmohan k
                                  Mar 12, 2015 at 4:59 pm
                                  It seems now good time for all anti-nationals and terrorists - getting support from every corner.
                                  Reply
                                  1. R
                                    ramasubramanian
                                    Mar 12, 2015 at 2:05 pm
                                    This judgement cannot be accepted, these lazy and jobless green peace people will get funded by foreign countries who are against india's development and they want to spoil india's retion across nations in the name of individual right and freedom. What is the necessity for her to go tell british MPs regarding our projects, because they are the salves of the foreign funders. This they cannot do in britain/USA/China or an. There they will be hanged for going against the interest of the nation.
                                    Reply
                                    1. S
                                      Shriram Mehendale
                                      Mar 12, 2015 at 12:43 pm
                                      Why green peace do not take up the issue of air pollution due to Car, Truck and two wheeler is it because automobile manufacturers lobby? is it because the western nations have huge interest in the Huge Indian automobile market and it may not profitable to manufacture outside India and in India. Therefore, they have set up huge plants in India special Ford and GM motors. In case of COAL the India's requirement of it for is huge as well as India has got sufficient reserves which explore properly will not only be sufficient for its own usage but India can export the COAL at may be lower than the cost of mining by American Companies. This may not suit the American companies have mining operations outside India. As their demand will come down will not be able to recover the Investments. This is the reason why Green peace is attacking ONLY MAHAN project. There is a cause of worry because some of our own Indian brethren are helping these foreign companies under guise of Air pollution. It is like same when some of the Indian Kings help British help spread their rule in India.
                                      Reply
                                      1. V
                                        Vaidy
                                        Mar 12, 2015 at 2:57 pm
                                        Please understand that every foreign istance has an objective, both hidden and open. What do you see is open objective. Environmental concern has gone beyond Greenpeace and is prevalent in every government. Every government is working on global agreements and has its experts to advise. Elected government has more responsibility than Greenpeace. and it has its own development agenda for the people. Greenpeace's advise and concern are not required in India.
                                        Reply
                                        1. B
                                          Bharateeya
                                          Mar 12, 2015 at 12:40 pm
                                          Supreme Court has to take this kind of sensitive issue which may create the nascence about Indian Supremacy at the world level. Lot of NGO's are getting Illegal money to stop different kind of development projects to down India's growth. No one Should not allow at any international stage to degrade our values and Indian unity. as he said..... "Justifying the government’s decision, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain had said that her visit to London was a serious threat to the nation and the speech she was going to make there is against the nation and had “potential for mischief” against India’s economic interests. "
                                          Reply
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