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'Smuggling Narcotics A Serious Offence; Legal Aid Under Consideration': MEA Tells Delhi High Court In Case Of Indian Seafarers Stranded In Iran

Akshita Saxena
13 Oct 2021 5:27 AM GMT
Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act: An Explainer

The Ministry of External Affairs has informed the Delhi High Court that the five Indian seafarers who are stranded in Iran have been provided with assistance of Indian Mission and assured the Court that necessary assistance will be provided to them under the law.

The development came while Justice Rekha Palli was hearing a plea moved by families of the seafarers, stranded in Iran even after their acquittal in a conspiracy case by an Iranian Court. They had sought for directions on the Ministry of External Affairs to take up the issue with Iran Government and repatriate them.

During the course of hearing, Centre submitted that the Indian Mission has facilitated the five seafarers with boarding and lodging facility, clothing items, necessary toiletries and groceries are provided to them on a weekly basis.

"Mission has managed the boarding facility with great difficulty, because none of the hotels are willing to give accommodation without identity proof," it said.

"Mission officers had visited them and enquired about their health, to which they responded that they are in good health. They have been advised to observe necessary health Protocols," it added.

So far as the identity documents are concerned, the Centre has submitted that since their passports are under the custody of Iranian authorities, Mission cannot issue any other identity document as passport is the only identity document recognized by the foreign governments.

"We have already requested Ministry of Foreign Affairs to locate and handover their passports," the Centre added.

On the issue of extending legal assistance to the seafarers with respect to their case pending before the Supreme Court of Iran, the Centre claimed,

"Legal assistance was extended to them by the local authorities during judicial proceedings of the case. Further, it may be noted, since their case is sub-judice on charges of narcotics smuggling (300kgs Morphine), which is a serious offence, providing legal assistance to them in this case is under consideration as per extant ICWF rules."

The matter is now listed for hearing on December 21.

The brief facts of the case are that the five seafarers were given job assurance in UAE, however, they were taken to Iran wherein they were made to join a Cargo vessel and perform menial duties.

On a raid conducted in the vessel by Iranian authorities in February last year, the Captain along with the aforesaid Seafarers came to be arrested and were charged with conspiracy to smuggle narcotics in deep sea. Subsequently, the owner of the vessel was also arrested.

It is the case of the petitioners that the Trial Court had acquitted all the seafarers on March 9 this year, however, the Iranian authorities refused to hand over their passports and continuous discharge certificates despite them languishing behind the bars for 403 days.

It is also the grievance of the petitioners that the matter is allegedly transferred to the Supreme Court of Iran, however, they have not been informed as to when it is likely to be finally decided.

Case Title: Sham Nathuram Yenpure & Ors v. Union of India

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