After creating a massive furore over the government restricting her right to travel abroad, Greenpeace activist Priya Parameshwaran Pillai got a much needed relief today..Justice Rajiv Shakhder set aside the Look out circular (LOC) issued against her by the Intelligence Bureau, directed the Bureau of Immigration to expunge the word ‘offload’ from her passport and remove her name from the database of invididuals barred from leaving the country. Declining to initiate an enquiry over officials involved in the incident, the Court however kept it open for Pillai to pursue her demand for compensation..The verdict was welcomed with an overwhelming response from Pillai’s activist friends who were present in full strength when the judgment was delivered and were justifiably elated. While the venerable judge may have delivered the verdict in near muted tones amidst the packed and raucous courtroom, the judgment itself is far from soft. Mincing no words in critiquing the stance of the government, and expressing regret over the way the entire exercise was carried out, the judgment observed,.“Every once in a while, citizens going about their usual and ordinary business get entangled with the State apparatus; sometimes for good reason and at times unjustifiably so. The instant matter is a case in point. 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.”.“…It is quite clear, that it can no longer be argued that the right to travel abroad is not a fundamental right. While, it may be true that the right to go abroad is not included the right to freedom of speech and expression, in some cases, the curtailment of right to travel abroad could impact, a citizen’s right of free speech and expression.”.Priya Pillai was headed to the UK on January 11 this year to address the British Parliament about her initiatives on renewable energy sources in the tribal area of Mahan in Madhya Pradesh and also shed light over the human rights violations occurring in that region. She was not allowed to take her flight to London by the airport officials who informed her that a Look out Circular had been issued against her..Pillai had approached the Delhi High Court challenging the guidelines issued by the Home Ministry that prohibited her from travelling to London. Senior Advocate Indira Jaisingh appearing for Pillai had told the Court that the LOC was without “due authority of law” and was grossly violative of Pillai’s right to travel abroad. Jaisingh, in her inimitable style, had vehemently argued that the freedom of speech, the right to personal liberty and the right to form associations formed a ‘golden triangle’ that ought not to be negotiated if one wanted to encourage and protect free thought in a democratic society..In response, a subdued yet firm ASG Sanjay Jain had defended the Centre’s by submitting that though Pillai had been permitted to travel out of India, on at least eight occasions, between January, 2007 and June, 2012, this time around she was detained, as the purpose of her visit was to depose before a formal committee of the British Parliament. This, he argued, would impact India’s image abroad, at a time when it was looking to attract FDI, in infrastructure and manufacturing sector. Responding to this stance, the judgment observes,.“The argument of the respondents that Greenpeace U.K. and Greenpeace International were fomenting protests in the country with respect to various public projects, especially, in the field of thermal and nuclear power generation, is not backed with actionable material.”.The Bench reserved its judgment on 19th February, with Justice Shakhder observing that these arguments would not suffice to explain the conduct of the government and India’s democracy was not that fragile to crumble in the face of adverse opinions being voiced out against the government, on an international platform. Evidently, the soft-spoken Justice Shakhder has ensured that his gavel strikes hard when it has to.