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Bombay HC dismisses plea by Vijaypat Singhana questioning use of colonial era code in aircraft

Singhania had questioned through his petition as to why aircraft in India continue to use ‘VT’ (Victorian or Viceroy Territory) as their nationality or country code even after seven decades of the end of the colonial rule.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
August 18, 2021 10:11:51 am
Raymond group, Vijaypat Singhana, Bombay HC, Bombay Hc on Vijaypat Singhana, Mumbai news, Indian expressThe code is generally seen right next to the rear exit door and above the windows of the aircrafts.

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday dismissed petition by Vijaypat Singhania, former chairman emeritus of Raymond Group and a registered pilot, along with Pune-based businessman Vijay Sethi, seeking directions to the civil aviation ministry to approach the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to get a new code or registration alphabets for all aircraft in the country.

Singhania had questioned through his petition as to why aircraft in India continue to use ‘VT’ (Victorian or Viceroy Territory) as their nationality or country code even after seven decades of the end of the colonial rule.

A division bench of Justice S J Kathawalla and Justice Milind N Jadhav passed an order in petition seeking new registration code ‘BH’ (short form for Bharat) or ‘MG’ (initials of Mahatma Gandhi) be used instead of ‘VT’ is expected to be heard after the summer vacation as the court is currently hearing only urgent matters due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The code is generally seen right next to the rear exit door and above the windows of the aircraft. According to global rules of ICAO, each aircraft has to be registered in a country where it is allotted a registration number, which has one or two letters as the country code, followed by three or four letters of the owner’s or the carrier’s choice.

The plea by Singhania, 82, claimed, “VT is a sign of colonial repression by the British, which remains on the Indian aircraft in the form of alphabets even today.”

The plea filed through advocates Asim Sarode and Ajinkya Udane said that for more than a decade, Singhania had been seeking removal of the ‘VT’ prefix. He said the central government had tried to get the code changed several times in the past, and replace it with IN (India) or HI (Hindustan), but none of these words were available with the ICAO.

After perusing the submissions, the bench noted that though petitioner Singhania claimed to be a registered pilot, it “did not find any case made out to show that any of the fundamental rights of the petitioners are being violated.”

The court said that reliefs seeking directions to the aviation ministry to produce records of attempts made by it so far to get the ‘VT’ registration changed and its “plan of action” in coordination with ICAO to do the same, can be sought under the RTI Act.

The bench also held that question of giving directions to Union government to make an attempt to get new registration alphabets ‘MG’ or ‘BH’ does not arise as the petitioners have stated that the ministry keeps on following up with ICAO and petitioners are free to submit their suggestions to the government for the same.

The HC observed that no interference was required in the matter and dismissed the petition saying, “In sum, there is nothing to show that the Union government has any statutory duty to have the code changed to any particular code or at all. Secondly, there is no pleaded case of breach of any statutory duty, assuming there is any, on the part of the Union government in causing to change the code allotted to the country by ICAO.”

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