Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Centre asked by Delhi High Court to consider PIL about VT on Indian aircraft

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad pointed out that only the government could act on such matters

 PRAVASISAMWAD.COM

The Delhi High Court on July 4, 2022 asked the government to consider a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking to change the Call Sign ‘VT’ on Indian aircraft. The PIL mentioned that ‘VT’ stood for ‘Victorian Territory and Viceroy Territory’, and was, therefore, a legacy of the British Raj.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad pointed out that only the government could act on such matters.

The PIL was by BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay and he was asked to approach the government with the plea as a representation. The court also directed the Ministry concerned to consider it in accordance with the law in a reasonable period of time. Accordingly, the PIL was withdrawn by the petitioner.

In the PIL, Upadhyay stated that being a ‘Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic’, the Call Sign ‘VT’ was contrary to the Rule of Law, Right to Freedom and Right to Dignity of Indians guaranteed under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.

The prefix ‘VT’ stood for ‘Victorian Territory and Viceroy Territory’, which was the nationality code that each aircraft registered in India was required to carry. The code is generally seen just before the rear exit door and above the windows. All domestic airlines have the prefix, which is followed by unique alphabets that define the aircraft and who it belongs to.

The PIL said that the call sign ‘VT’ was assigned to India during the International Radiotelegraph Convention of Washington signed at Washington on November 27, 1927

For example, on IndiGo planes, VT is followed by IDV, i.e., VTIDV, for Jet, it is VT-JMV, the plea stated.

The PIL also stated that the prefix – mandatory for all countries — signified that the aircraft had been registered in the country. The registration of the aircraft appears in its Certificate of Registration and an aircraft can only have one registration in one jurisdiction.

The PIL contended that Britain had set the prefix ‘VT’ for India before Partition in 1929. The British set the code for all the colonies starting with V. However, countries like China, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka changed their codes later. In India, the prefix has remained on the aircraft even after 93 years and this offended the right to dignity of citizens.

The petitioner submitted that the registration number of Indian aircraft marked the legacy of ‘British Raj’. The ‘VT’ code was a reflection of colonial rule. India was a sovereign country and could not be a territory of the Viceroy. Why was India continuing with the VT code? The efforts of the government to change the registration code have been fruitless thus far.

In 2004, the aviation ministry approached the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to change the code but no decision has been taken so far. The PIL said that the call sign ‘VT’ was assigned to India during the International Radiotelegraph Convention of Washington signed at Washington on November 27, 1927. Like India, every country has a one-or-two-character alphanumeric code for the identity of aircraft. The US, for example, has ‘N’, UK has ‘G’, UAE has ‘A6’, Singapore has ‘9V’ and so on. These codes indicate the nationality of civilian aircraft.

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Shivank S Singh
(The author is a Law Student at Jindal Global Law School. The views expressed are his own.)

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