New Delhi: The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has criticised the immigration officials for refusing to allow Greenpeace campaigner Priya Pillai to fly to London. It described their action as “arbitrary, highhanded and illegal.”
In a statement on January 13, PUCL said she had a valid business visa and all her travel papers were in order. There was thus no acceptable reason for preventing her from travelling to London as she was neither a convicted person nor was there any judicial restraint order prohibiting her travel abroad.
“PUCL strongly condemns the arbitrary, highhanded and illegal action of the immigration officials of the Government of India at the New Delhi airport refusing to permit Ms. Priya Pillai, senior Campaigner of Greenpeace, to board her flight to London on 11th January, 2015. Worse still was the vindictive act of the immigration officials stamping Ms. Priya Pillai’s passport as `OFFLOADED’ thereby effectively ensuring that she cannot leave India until and unless the Government of India revokes the unannounced ban on her travel.
Ms. Priya had valid business visa and all her travel papers were in order. There is thus no acceptable reason for preventing Ms. Priya from travelling to London as she is neither a convicted person nor is there any judicial restraint order prohibiting her travel abroad.
The Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) stated, “what is ominous is that the Home Ministry has purportedly stated that there is “no rule which allows restraining a citizen from travelling abroad….(because) he/she would express views in conflict with government’s policies.” (TOI, 13/01/2015)]. So if this is the case who ordered the ‘lookout circular’, and at whose behest? These are questions which remain unanswered. If, as the news reports suggest, that the ‘lookout circular’ was issued by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) which has no executive authority to issue them, or by the Foreigners division of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) without the knowledge of the Home Secretary then, this action against Ms. Pillai who had a valid visa shows how arbitrariness has come to define the working of agencies and divisions of MHA, tasked with ‘internal security’.”
Both the organisations demanded that the Government of India immediately revoke its decision to ban foreign travel by Ms. Priya Pillai, strike out the stamp in her passport of being “Off loaded” thereby enabling her to travel abroad if all her travel papers are in order.
They also called upon the Government of India to stop “hounding and targeting rights activists for coercive or police action and instead create a conducive, non-adversarial, intimidation-free environment enabling people to share, discuss and debate in a democratic spirit crucial issues of development projects and programmes.”
The Ministry of Home Affairs has reportedly stated that they had no information about any travel restrictions on Ms. Pillai, while the immigration officials said they were acting on orders from the Government of India. PUCL said it was unlikely that such a drastic decision would be taken without instructions from the highest level.