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Priya Pillai refuses to give undertaking to government to fly abroad

New Delhi(PTI): Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai, who was offloaded from a flight to London at New Delhi airport last month, has told theDelhi High Court that she would not give an undertaking to the central government as a pre-condition to allow her to travel abroad.

Pillai was stopped from flying to London on January 11 on the basis of a look-out-circular (LOC) issued by the Intelligence Bureau (IB). The government said “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 before a British parliamentary committee. However, the government has now said it had no objection to Pillai expressing her opinion on the issue in India and it would permit her to travel abroad if she gave an undertaking to not express such opinions abroad.

Appearing before the Delhi High Court on Thursday, Pillai said that it was her fundamental right to voice her thoughts.

“My basic contention was that I will not give an undertaking to the government, I refuse to be gagged because it is my fundamental right – the freedom to express my opinion freely in this country and to travel outside this country and to associate with any organisation which is registered in this country and is working under the laws laid down by the constitution,” she said.

The Delhi High Court had sought a reply from the government on stopping Pillai from travelling to London last month for a meeting of the British all-party parliamentary group. Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, had on Wednesday justified government’s decision arguing that the situation had “potential for mischief” against India’s economic interests.

Pillai’s counsel, Indira Jaising, said that the court has reserved its judgment.  “Language used in court has to be constitutional and in my opinion such type of language is very unconstitutional,” said Jaising, adding, “That she (Priya Pillai) has a right to freedom of speech and that she has a right to travel abroad.”

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