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Delhi HC serves gov't in Jaising challenge of Greenpeace staffers 'arbitrary' travel ban under 'etc' category

The Delhi high court Wednesday issued notice to the centre and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) on a plea filed by Greenpeace staff member Priya Pillai, challenging her having been prevented from flying out of Delhi airport on 11 January.

The Indian Express had reported last week that the Intelligence Bureau had requested Pillai’s inclusion on the “no-fly list” under the “etc” category of an internal order specifying who can be put on such lists, since none of the other categories applied to her.

The office memorandum by the ministry of home affairs states that “in exceptional cases, LOCs [lookout circulars] can be issued without complete parameters and/or case details against CI, suspects, terrorists, anti-national elements, etc, in larger national interest.”

Justice Rajiv Shakdher issued notice to the home ministry, Bureau of Immigration and the IB and asked them to file their responses by Feb 6.

Approaching the court, Pillai said 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.

“The illegal offloading by over-zealous government agencies is not just a violation of her basic right to personal liberty and freedom of speech but is also deliberate attempt to malign her reputation,” senior advocate Indira Jaising appearing for Pillai told the court.

The advocate also sought interim relief to travel to London saying Pillai is invited to attend a meeting there Feb 11.

Pillai also challenged the alleged lookout circular issued in her name.

“The circular has no legal basis as Pillai neither has any conviction against her, nor has she ever evaded arrest or trial in any case,” the plea said.

It further said her reputation and work were being “targeted” by the government and urged the court to issue an appropriate order to “expunge” the endorsement “offload” on her passport and also issue an order to set aside the lookout circular against her at the earliest.

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

The high court recently ordered the central government to unblock Rs 1.87 crore of Greenpeace India funds that were frozen. The funds were blocked by the Reserve Bank of India following a June 2014 home ministry directive that the NGO challenged in court.

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