Priya Parameswaran Pillai Vs. Union of India and Ors.

In January 2015, an immigration officer stopped Greenpeace India activist Pillai from boarding her flight to London, where she intended speak to British Parliamentarians on how one of the U.K.’s energy company’s plans to open coal mines in Madhya Pradesh threatened to displace the area’s tribal communities. The immigration officers prevented Pillai from boarding the plane on the basis that her talk was “anti-nationalist” and “would have negatively projected the image of the Government of India” for not adequately protecting the human rights of its tribal communities. Pillai took the issue to court as a violation of her Constitutional rights to freedom of speech and to move about freely. The Supreme Court ruled in her favor.

The core aspect of democracy is the freedom of an individual to be able to freely operate, within the framework of the laws enacted by the Parliament. The individual should be able to order his or her life any way he or she pleases, as long as it is not violative of the law or constitutes an infraction of any order or direction of a duly constituted court, tribunal or any statutory authority for that matter. Amongst the varied freedoms conferred on an individual (i.e., the citizen), is the right of free speech and expression, which necessarily includes the right to criticise and dissent. Criticism, by an individual, may not be palatable; even so, it cannot be muzzled. Many civil right activists believe that they have the right, as citizens, to bring to the notice of the State the incongruity in the developmental policies of the State. The State may not accept the views of the civil right activists, but that by itself, cannot be a good enough reason to do away with dissent.

Paragraph 13.5Priya Parameswaran Pillai Vs. Union of India and Ors.2015VIIAD(Delhi)10