Public litigation has been moved in the Delhi High Court by families of five seafarers stranded in Iran, seeking direction to the Central government to provide legal and counsellor service to seafarers and secure their repatriation. The family sought direction to the Centre to actively pursue the matter with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for expeditious disposal of the matter by the Supreme Court of Iran.
The petition seeks direction to the Union of India through the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to provide sufficient medical and financial assistance, boarding and lodging and all other necessary consular services to the seafarers till such time they are repatriated to India.
The petition will be heard by the bench of Justice Rekha Pall tomorrow. The plea has been filed by Advocate Gurinder Pal Singh for petitioners.
According to the plea, all the petitioners come from very humble backgrounds. On completion of their marine course, the seafarers have assured a job in the United Arab Emirates.
They flew separately to UAE but to their great shock and dismay and contrary to what was represented to them by their placement agents, they were taken to Iran where they joined a Cargo vessel MV Artin 10 as seafarers performing only menial duties.
From October 15, 2019, onwards the vessel sailed through various ports including Port Busher, Al-Ruwais Port Qatar, Bandar Abbas Iran where cargo was loaded and unloaded.
“On February 21, 2020, while the vessel was in deep-sea at Strait of Hormoz, the Iranian authorities raided the vessel and arrested the Captain along with the seafarers and charged them with conspiracy to smuggle narcotics in the deep sea. The owner of the vessel too was subsequently arrested by the local Iranian authorities. The seafarers remained in custody at Chabahar Jail for almost 403 days during which time, despite repeated requests, written representations and communications, no potential assistance including legal assistance were extended to them by the Government of India,” the plea read.
On March 8, the Trial Court in Chabahar acquitted all five seafarers and on March 9, they were freed.
However, the Iranian authorities refused to hand over their passport and Continuous Discharge Certificate (CDC).
Later, the seafarers were informed that the matter had been referred to the Supreme Court of Iran. They were further informed that by June 23, the matter will be finally decided by the Supreme Court.
“Till date, the Government of India and more particularly the Ministry of External Affairs and the Indian Embassy in Tehran have not taken any steps to provide any assistance, financial or legal whatsoever to them which they were entitled to, being Indian Citizens. The long ordeal and waiting have taken a toll on both mental and physical well-being of these five seafarers,” the plea alleged.