Grounding of Greenpeace activist a gross rights violation, HC told

A day after the government justified its decision to stop Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai from travelling to London to address a meeting of the British all-party parliamentary group, her lawyer Indira Jaising told the Delhi High Court on Thursday that there was ''simultaneous violation of the right to free speech, right to freedom of association and personal liberty of movement''. (See: Greenpeace worker barred from leaving India; no official reason).

After hearing detailed arguments from both sides, the bench of Justice Rajiv Shakdher reserved its order on Pillai's plea.

Pillai was stopped from flying to London on 11 January on the basis of a look-out-circular (LOC) issued by the Intelligence Bureau (IB).

The government said she was off-loaded from the plane as ''she had plans to testify on the alleged violations of forest rights of indigenous tribal people in the Mahan coal block area'' of Madhya Pradesh.

Appearing on her behalf, Jaising said, ''There cannot be any executive action against fundamental rights. Simply because you want to act to advance the interests of a certain section of the people, it cannot be deduced as an anti-national activity or an act of secessionism. My client espouses the rights of tribals who are a part of the Indian Union.''

She also raised the issue of the IB mandate and questioned whether the agency, as an executive authority, had the power to issue such orders. ''The LOCs are normally issued for extraditable offences, against counter-intelligence suspects which include terrorists and anti-national elements. There are no such grounds in this case,'' she said.

''They have not invoked the provisions of The Passports Act to stop her as safeguards in the Act would have come into play,'' Jaising said.

 The court said the plea was limited to the alleged violation of Pillai's rights, and was not about executive powers.

Jaising also refused to accept the home ministry offer given by Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain on Wednesday that Pallai would be allowed to travel if she signed an undertaking that she would not appear before the UK parliamentary panel.

''You cannot impose pre-situational conditions - that is unconstitutional,'' Jaising said, adding that ''we can't negotiate away our right to life and liberty''.