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Court prod on hostage sailors

New Delhi, Jan. 15: The Supreme Court has sought the response of the Centre and the foreign and shipping ministries on a PIL seeking immediate rescue of 34 Indian sailors held hostage by Somali pirates for the last two years.

The petition said the government, which was bound by Indian law and UN conventions to protect its citizens from piracy and violence, had failed to discharge its duty.

It cited three instances of Indian seamen seized by Somali pirates in international waters — six from a cargo ship off East Africa in March 2010; 17 from a chemical tanker in the Arabian Sea in March 2012; and 11 from a ship in the Arabian Sea in May 2012. The first two ships were registered under Panama laws and the third under those of Liberia.

The petition submitted that under IPC Section 3, it was the duty of the government to take action against those who commit offences against Indians even in a foreign country.

It said Parliament had enacted the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation & Fixed Platform on Continental Shelf Act (SUA Act) in 2002 to effectively deal with unlawful acts that endanger maritime navigation and the safety of persons and property.

The petitioner said the government was duty-bound to protect the life and liberty of its citizens within and outside India and any violation infringes Articles 19 and 21.

Under Article 100 of the UN Convention on Laws of Sea, it is the fundamental duty of all member states to co-operate to the fullest possible extent in the repression of piracy on the high seas or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any state.

Hence, the PIL sought direction to the Centre to issue appropriate orders to intervene and secure the sailors’ release.