Greenpeace vindicated by courts

Greenpeace_protest 1

The Narendra Modi government may have escalated its fight with Greenpeace India by squeezing its foreign funds but the NGO had scored against it at least twice in courts this year.

“Criticism, by an individual, may not be palatable, even so, it cannot be muzzled…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,” Delhi High Court said last month in a verdict on offloading Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai from a London-bound plane.

Greenpeace has been in the Government’s radar for almost two years — even during Manmohan Singh’s regime — and it came out in the open with a controversial Intelligence Bureau report on June 3, 2014 naming it in a report saying that such outfits were “negatively impacting economic development”.

The government was not at all enthusiastic about Greenpeace’s “anti-coal activism”. The IB report painted an alarming picture, “while its efforts to raise obstacles to India’s coal-based energy plans are gathering pace, it has also started spawning mass-based movements against development projects and is assessed to be posing a potential threat to national economic security.”

This sentiment in the government led to the offloading of Pillai from the London-bound plane in January this year. She was to address UK MPs there about Mahan coal block and Greenpeace’s fight against it.

The Union Home Ministry put her in a list of person not allowed to be travelled abroad and disallowed her from flying to London. However, it evoked protests and criticism and the matter went to Delhi High Court, which directed authorities to expunge the “offload” remark from her passport and remove her name from a database and allow her to travel abroad.

Another was the freezing of Greenpeace accounts, which received funds from Greenpeace International and Climate Works Foundation, months after the controversial IB report. However, this time also, Delhi High Court came to Greenpeace’s rescue in January this year when it directed the government to remove the freeze.

“There is no material on record to restrict the petitioner from accessing the bank account with the IDBI Bank in Chennai,” the High Court then said adding NGOs are entitled to have their viewpoints and it cannot be accused of acting against national interest merely because its views do not match the government’s viewpoint.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Apr 10, 2015)

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