A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been moved in the Delhi High Court seeking directions to the Centre to change the Call Sign ‘VT’ written on Indian aircraft stating it stands for ‘Victorian Territory and Viceroy Territory’, a legacy of the British Raj. In the PIL, petitioner BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay stated that being a ‘Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic’, the Call Sign ‘VT’ is 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’ stands for ‘Victorian Territory and Viceroy Territory’, which is the nationality code that each aircraft registered in India is 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. For example, on Indigo flights the registration VT is followed by IDV, i.e., VT-IDV, for Jet, it is VT-JMV, the plea stated.
It further said the prefix marks that the aircraft has been registered in the country and it is mandatory in all countries. The registration of the aircraft is required to appear in its Certificate of Registration and an aircraft can only have one registration in one jurisdiction.
The PIL contended that Britain set the prefix ‘VT’ for India before the partition in 1929. The British had set the code for all the colonies starting with V. However, countries like China, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka changed their codes later. While in India, the prefix has remained on the aircraft even after 93 years, which offends the right to dignity of citizens.
The registration is as per international laws and every aircraft must specify which country and airline it belongs to, using a unique alpha-numeric code, which is of five characters, that is in IndiGo’s case, VT-IDV and for Jet, it is VT-JMV. In simple words, the call sign or the registration code is for the identification of the aircraft, it said.
The petitioner submitted that the registration number of Indian aircraft marks the legacy of ‘British Raj’. ‘VT’ code is a reflection of colonial rule. India is a sovereign country, hence cannot be a territory of the Viceroy. Why is India continuing with the VT code? The efforts of the government to change the registration code have been fruitless.
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 petitioner submitted 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. Like the US has ‘N’, UK has ‘G’, UAE has ‘A6’, Singapore has ‘9V’, and so on. According to the World Factbook placed on the website of cia.gov, these codes indicate the nationality of civilian aircraft.