Supreme Court slams government for not curbing high-sea piracy

January 29th, 2009 - 10:47 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 29 (IANS) The Supreme Court Thursday rebuked the government for being ineffective in tackling high-sea piracy and caring little for lives of Indians falling prey to pirates in international waters.Upset by the government’s failure to provide details of maritime casualties since 2002, a bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice Aftab Alam said: “Do the lives of Indians have no value? You are carrying out an order as if it was casual.”

The bench was hearing a lawsuit filed by victims of an incident of piracy off Somalia in 2006.

“You have not taken enough action. Why are you not participating in investigations properly? What action has been taken against manning agents? Why do they not report such cases in time? You should voluntarily do something,” the bench said after perusing the government’s reply filed on the apex court’s direction last year.

The government in its reply to the court had said it was facing acute shortage of technical officers in the Director General of Shipping (DGS) to probe the cases of casualty or accident involving Indian seafarers on a ship in the international waters.

The government filed its affidavit in response to the petition by the family members of Indian seamen working on the missing vessel Jupiter 6.

The apex court last September asked the government to furnish the number of missing or hijacked ships. It also sought the details of the steps taken by the government to participate in the investigation with the country within whose jurisdiction the casualty takes place.

But the affidavit filed by the Deputy Director General of Shipping revealed that despite an increase in casualties in high sea since 2005, the government has failed to even establish a dedicated and independent “Indian Marine Casualty Investigation Bureau”, which could be assigned the task to probe cases of missing ships or any other casualty in the international seas.

The affidavit said in the absence of an Indian law mandating participation of the government in casualties arising either from hijack of a merchant navy ship in sea waters or an accident, the foreign countries are not obliged to invite India to participate in the investigations.

The affidavit said the Indian government was not in a position to force itself on any international state within whose territory the casualty takes place.

“In the best case scenario where such invitation is received, the status of participation remains that of an ‘observer’,” said the affidavit.

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