The registration mark on all the Indian aircraft starts with the call sign VT, which stands for “Victorian Territory and Viceroy Territory,” a relic of the British Raj.
The prefix VT, which is the nationality code that each aircraft registered in India is required to carry is generally seen just before the rear exit door and above the windows. All the domestic airlines have the prefix, which is followed by unique alphabets that define the aircraft and who it belongs to.
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.
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the Delhi High Court by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, a BJP leader and attorney who filed the PIL, claiming that because India is a “Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic,” the Call Sign “VT” violates the Rule of Law, the Right to Freedom, and the Right to Dignity of Persons guaranteed by Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution.
VT code is a reflection of colonial rule, as claimed by the petitioner, who stated that the registration number of Indian aircraft marks the legacy of ‘The British Raj’. The use of the VT symbol denotes us still being Victorian Territory and Viceroy Territory, which is true.
“The code is generally seen just before the rear exit door and above the windows. All the 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, that is, VT-IDV, for Jet, it is VT-JMV,” the petition filed by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay said.
In 2004, the aviation ministry approached the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to change the code, but no decision has been taken so far. It is a code given to us in 1929 by British rulers, denoting us as British territory. India, even after 75 years of Independence, retains the symbol of slavery ‘VT’.
In 2016, BJP leader Tarun Vijay raised the issue in Rajya Sabha of changing the registration mark on Indian Airplanes stating it was a reflection of colonial rule.
“Hindustan cannot be a territory of the Viceroy…. Why is India continuing with the VT code?… VT should be changed right away.”Tarun Vijay, BJP leader.
The call sign VT was assigned to India during the International Radiotelegraph Convention of Washington, 1927 signed at Washington on 25th November 1927.
Also invoking the provisions of the Constitution, the PIL states that the words “sovereignty and integrity of India” found in the Indian Constitution denote the “wholeness of the country”. It is for this sovereignty and integrity that the symbol of British legacy needs to be changed, the petitioner’s case essentially is.
A similar plea by different petitioners which sought a change in the call sign from “VT” was dismissed by the Bombay High Court in 2021.
The Bombay High Court noted that while the government had attempted to get the call sign changed and approached the ICAO for the same, there was no statutory duty for the government to do it. As such, a petition for directions for the government to undertake this exercise could not be entertained.
The petition sought to direct the Centre to change the call sign ‘VT’ on Indian aircraft to secure the Sovereignty of India as well as rule of law, right to freedom, and right to dignity of Indians guaranteed under the Constitution, saying countries like China, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka had changed the call signs of their aircraft immediately after the independence.
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’, the UK has ‘G’, UAE has ‘A6’, Singapore has ‘9V’, and so on.
An online petition was also started a few months back by Mr. Amit Singh, an aviation Safety & Training expert with over 35 years of airline experience. Amit is the founder of an NGO, Safety Matters Foundation which is dedicated to establishing a generative safety culture in aviation.