Bombay High Court dismisses plea seeking change in 'colonial era' code for aircrafts in India

The petition filed by Dr Vijaypat Singhania sought directions to the Aviation Ministry to change the nationality code from VT (Victorian/ Viceroy Territory) to BH (Bharat) or MG (Mahatma Gandhi)

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition seeking directions to the Ministry of Civil Aviation to approach the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to get a new code or registration alphabets for all aircrafts in the country.

The petition filed by Padmabhushan Dr. Vijaypat Singhania, former chairman emeritus of Raymond Group, along with Pune-based registered pilot-businessman Vijay Sethi stated that presently the aircrafts in the country continued to use the registration alphabets 'VT' (Victorian or Viceroy Territory) despite the British colonial rule having ended over 70 years ago.

As per the global rules set out by the ICAO, each aircraft is required to be registered in a country where it is allotted a registration number which has one or two letters as the country code, followed by three or four letters of owners or the carriers choice, like ‘VT-123’ in case of an Indian Aircraft.

The petition stated that having 'VT' as a country code was a sign of "colonial repression by the British" which remains on our aircrafts even today.

"The President and the Prime Minister of India also use the aircrafts which appear to be under the command of the British Government," the petition stated.

The petitioners sought for a new registration code 'BH' (short form for Bharat) or 'MG' (short for Mahatma Gandhi) instead of 'VT'.

He submitted that the government had attempted to get the code changed to 'BH' or 'HI' (short for Hindustan) however the letters were not available with ICAO and the only options were X or Y.

The petition also stated that the Aviation Ministry keeps following up with ICAO to check whether they can get any other alphabetic title for aircrafts registered in India rather than use the word 'VT'.

Dismissing the petition, Bench of Justices SJ Kathawalla and Milind Jadhav observed that no fundamental rights of the petitioners had been violated to invoke the writ jurisdiction.

"There is nothing to show that the Government of India has any statutory duty to have the Code changed to any particular Code or at all," the bench observed.

The Bench also noted from the petition itself that this was no case of "breach of any statutory duty" assuming there is any, on the part of the Government of India in causing to change the Code allotted to the Country by ICAO.

As for the prayer to seek details pertaining to the attempts to get the registration code changed, the Court opined that the petitioners could seek that information under the Right to Information Act and refused to interfere in the case.

[Read Order]

Padmabhushan Dr. Vijaypat Singhania & Anr. v. Government of India & Anr..pdf
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