The Delhi High Court has directed the external affairs ministry to pay compensation of Rs.50,000 to a Indian who was returning to his job in Spain but was detained by airlines staff at Brussels airport and deported to India despite having valid documents.
Ruling on the petition of Balwinder Singh, Justice S. Muralidhar said: ‘This court expresses its displeasure with the manner in which the respondents have violated the life and liberty of the petitioner.’
‘The petitioner has needlessly suffered hardship and trauma due to the arbitrary acts of the respondents. In the circumstances, this court considers it appropriate to direct that the respondents compensate the petitioner the sum of Rs.50,000 which will be paid by the Union of India in the Ministry of External Affairs to him within a period of four weeks from today,’ the judge said in the order given April 29 but only made available May 14.
‘The respondent, Union of India, will also pay to the petitioner litigation expenses of Rs.5,000 within a period of four weeks from today. The respondents will immediately return to the petitioner, if not already done, all the documents seized from him,’ said the court.
Singh, who wanted to work abroad, had applied for and got a job of a messenger with a company in Spain’s Jarona city in 2007.
The Spanish embassy October 2007 issued Singh a three-month work visa April 16, 2008 which was further extended till 2011.
Singh then went to Spain and took up the job. He had returned to India in Nov 2009 to meet his family.
On Feb 21, 2010, he boarded a flight from Indira Gandhi International Airport here to return to Spain, with one stoppage at Brussels airport. While in Brussels, when he was about to take the connecting flight to Spain, officials of the Jet Airways began questioning him in the English and Dutch languages.
Being illiterate, Singh could not understand or answer the queries. Although he informed the officials that he had a valid work permit, he was kept in illegal confinement at Brussels airport and was not allowed to fly at Spain. He was deported to India the next day.
His problems increased when he reached New Delhi. Instead of verifying the genuineness of his work permit from the Spanish embassy, officials at the airport kept him in illegal confinement till the evening of Feb 22, 2010, he claimed.
‘They took away all the personal documents of Singh, including his passport, the residential permit, medical cards, driving licence and bank card etc. Thereafter, he kept approaching the respondents for return of his documents but in vain,’ said Singh’s lawyer Ajay Kumar Pipaniya.
Finally, Singh filed a writ petition Aug 17, 2010 seeking direction to the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) and the Regional Passport Officer (RPO), Jalandhar, to release all the documents seized from him on Feb 22, 2010 and for them to make arrangements for his return to Spain.