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Delhi HC: De-planing Greenpeace activist 'inappropriate', risk of India becoming pariah state overstated

The Delhi high court today termed “inappropriate” the central government’s decision to prevent Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai from leaving India because she would project a negative image of the country at the international level.

Justice Rajiv Shakdher said that there can be differences of opinion on the development policies of the government but that does not tantamount to being “anti-national”.

The central government had earlier told the court that Pillai has been “involved in anti-national activities” and that was why she was offloaded Jan 11 at the airport here, when she was going to London to attend a meeting.

The court also remarked that the central government was “underestimating the power of the Indian state” when Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain submitted that Pillai’s speech had the potential of being prejudicial to the national interest.

In an affidavit, the government said that if she gave evidence before a British parliamentary group that often produces “heavily biased” reports, India could face sanctions from foreign governments, as had been imposed against North Korea, Iran or Russia.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for Pillai, objected to the government’s move and told the court that the Greenpeace activist has a fundamental right to express her opinion on issues both nationally and internationally.

She added: “The fact that her opinion is not in consonance with that of the government’s does not imply that her views are detrimental to national interest.”

The central government however, justified the issuance of the Look Out Circular (LOC) against Pillai saying that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has been issuing LOCs for the last several decades for various reasons concerning national security.

Pillai has challenged her offloading and LOC issued in her name.

In her petition, she said that her offloading was “illegal and arbitrary” and she had a valid business visa for six months to visit London where she was scheduled to address British parliamentarians Jan 14.

Pillai was invited by British MPs to talk about her campaign with local communities in Mahan, Madhya Pradesh, where a proposed coal mining project is threatening to uproot the lives and livelihood of the community.

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