Iraq Hostage Crisis: Delhi HC Commends Govt. For Herculean Efforts; Dismisses PIL Seeking SIT Probe With 1Lakh Cost [Read Judgment]

Iraq Hostage Crisis: Delhi HC Commends Govt. For Herculean Efforts; Dismisses PIL Seeking SIT Probe With 1Lakh Cost [Read Judgment]

It is extremely material that not a single family member of any of the deceased persons has come forward to criticise the Government, fault its efforts or doubt the statement of the Minister or file any petition, the bench said.

The Delhi High Court recently dismissed a PIL seeking SIT investigation into the death of 39 Indian citizens who were held hostage by the ISIS in Iraq.

A division bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal slapped on the PIL petitioner, Advocate Mehmood Pracha, a cost of Rs. 1 lakh for making insensitive submissions and for filing writ petition based on no material.

Alleging that the Central Government had failed to protect the lives of 39 Indian captives who were held hostage by the ISIS in Iraq, advocate Pracha, in his PIL, contended that “citizens of this country as well as the relatives of the hostages” have a right to know what steps were taken to save the hostages.

The Central Government submitted before the court that India does not make the declaration “missing presumed dead” about Indian nationals till there is confirmed information regarding this state of affairs. The government also made a detailed statement explaining its efforts in this regard.

Endorsing this submission, the bench observed: “Looked at from any angle and perspective, this policy of the Government cannot be faulted. Imagine a situation whereupon his/her going missing the authorities declared the person dead without confirmation and subsequently the person emerged alive. The action of the authorities would be labelled callous and negligent by persons as the petitioner.”

Commending the efforts by Ministry of External Affairs, the court further said: “India was entitled to the remains of its own citizens. Upon human remains being discovered in a mound found to be a mass grave, an elaborate exercise of DNA profiling and matching stands undertaken confirming not only that the bodies were of Indian citizens, but their identities established before the bodies have been handed over to the Indian authorities. This has been possible only because of the herculean efforts of the Ministry of External Affairs in India and Iraq as also the sensitivity with which this huge tragedy stands handled by the Indian authorities.... The tremendous responsibility shouldered by the Embassy of India, its promptness of the response to the difficult situation has to be commended... The fact that the Minister of State has personally traveled to Iraq even to bring home the mortal remains of the Indian workers and traveled to different States to hand them over is a reflection of the respect for Indian lives... There are other recent instances where Indian caught in violent cross fire have been brought home safely. Indian travellers all over the world must be feeling reassured by the official response that they are cared for and confident as they move across the globe.”

Rejecting the other prayer of the petitioner, the court observed that public disclosure of more information than disclosed relating to the efforts of the government would require divulgence of the identity of Indian and foreign undercover assets abroad, endangering their lives and, possibly, seriously compromising national security as well.

Coming down heavily on the petitioner, the bench observed: “The petitioner does not even advert to the elaborate steps taken by the authorities in India and Iraq and the extensive efforts to establish not only that the remains were of Indians but also the identities of the individual bodies. Thereby the petitioner is guilty of concealment of material facts... The kind of submissions made by the petitioner reflects extreme insensitivity to the tragedy which befell the thirty-nine Indian workers and the devastation which their surviving dependents and family members would have undergone.. This writ petition in our view also is not guided by any motive of public interest. The writ petitioner in the present case also does not satisfy any of the tests, which would render him eligible to institute or maintain the present writ petition.. The writ petition which ignores the welfare, interest and sensitivities of dependents and relatives of Indian citizens who were killed after being taken into custody by a militant organisation and the public interest in ensuring healthy international relations and diplomatic ties deserves condemnation in the strongest terms. Such attempts also have to be strongly discouraged.”

Read the Judgment Here