The Delhi High Court on Thursday granted more time to the Central government through the Ministry of External Affairs in a plea of families of five seafarers stranded in Iran sought direction to provide financial assistance, consular service and ensure expeditious repatriation to India.
Meanwhile, Senior Advocate Harsh Vaidyanathan appeared for MEA, assured the court that the Mission in Iran is in touch with the petitioners and being provided all the best possible help. Mission had facilitated the five seafarers with boarding and lodging facility and Groceries is provided to them and weekly basis, MEA told
Advocate Gurinder Pal Singh, who appeared for the petitioner submits that the stranded seafarers are still not provided consular service.
The bench of Justice Rekha Palli on Thursday granted more time to MEA to file a status report regarding steps taken by it and slated the matter for December 21, 2021.
The Court had earlier issued notice to MEA on a plea of families of five seafarers stranded in Iran, sought direction to provide legal and counsellor service to seafarers and secure their repatriation. The family also 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.
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 the 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 said Vessel sailed through various ports including Port Busher, Al-Ruwais Port Qatar, Bandar Abbas Iran, etc where the cargo was loaded and unloaded.
“On February 21, 2020, while the vessel was in deep seat 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 (i.e. from February 22, 2020, to March 8, 2021) 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.
Further, on March 8, 2021, the trial court in Chabahar, Iran acquitted all five seafarers and on March 9, 2021, they set their foot to freedom. However, the Iranian authorities refused to hand over their passport and Continuous Discharge Certificate (CDC).
Later, the seafarers were informed later that the matter had been referred to the Supreme Court of Iran. They were further informed that by June 23, 2021, the matter would 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.
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