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Writ to intervene and expedite release of Indian Seamen held hostages by the Somalian Pirates in the international waters on 29th March, 2010, 2nd March, 2012 and 10th May, 2012 and to frame anti-piracy guidelines – Apex court held that this Court cannot assume the role of the executive to oversee the sensitive issue of coordination with international agencies and bodies for securing release of Indian citizens who are held hostages abroad, when it is shown that the departments of the Government have not only taken cognizance of the problem but also taken, in right earnest, whatever steps could be possible. It is not a case where the State has not shown any concern for its citizens, but where unfortunate situation has come about in spite of serious efforts. at this stage, is that the matter may be periodically reviewed at the appropriate level and a nodal officer may be designated who may continue to coordinate and oversee the efforts on the issue and with whom the families of the victims can also have interaction for getting information or giving suggestions.= WRIT PETITION (C) NO. 536 OF 2012 GAURAV KUMAR BANSAL … PETITIONER VERSUS UNION OF INDIA & ORS. … RESPONDENTS = 2014 – Sept. Month – http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41896

Writ to intervene and expedite  release  of  Indian  Seamen  held  hostages  by  the

Somalian Pirates in the  international  waters  on  29th  March,  2010,  2nd March, 2012 and 10th May, 2012 and to frame  anti-piracy  guidelines – Apex court held that this  Court  cannot assume the  role  of  the  executive  to  oversee  the  sensitive  issue  of coordination with international agencies and bodies for securing release  of Indian citizens who are held hostages abroad, when  it  is  shown  that  the departments of the Government have not only taken cognizance of the  problem but also taken, in right earnest, whatever steps  could  be  possible.   It is not a case where the State has not shown any concern  for its citizens, but where unfortunate situation has come  about  in  spite  of serious  efforts.   at  this stage, is that the matter may be periodically reviewed  at  the  appropriate level and a nodal officer may be designated who may continue  to  coordinate

and oversee the efforts on the issue and  with  whom  the  families  of  the victims  can  also  have  interaction  for  getting  information  or  giving suggestions.=

These  petitions  seek  directions  to  the  Government  of  India  to

intervene and expedite  release  of  Indian  Seamen  held  hostages  by  the

Somalian Pirates in the  international  waters  on  29th  March,  2010,  2nd

March, 2012 and 10th May, 2012 and to frame  anti-piracy  guidelines.=

Case of the petitioner  is  that  three  merchant  vessels  have  been

hijacked in the high sea and out of the crew members  held  captive  by  the

pirates, eight persons continued to be detained by them.

It  is  the  duty

of the Government of India to take necessary steps to secure their  release.

Representations have been made to the Government authorities, but  effective

steps have not been taken to secure their release.   Piracy  is  illegal  as

per UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

It  is  the  fundamental

duty of the Member States to cooperate in preventing  incidents  of  piracy.

International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is a  UN  specialised  agency  for

safety of shipping and prevention of marine  pollution  by  ships.

As  per

information available on the website of IMO, armed  pirates  hijacked  cargo

ship “ICEBERG-1” (Flag State Panama) in International Waters of East  Africa

and took 24 crew members (6 are Indians) hostage  and  sailed  the  ship  to

Somali coast on 29th March, 2010, at 9.30 hrs.

On 10th May, 2012,  at  9.23

am, pirates hijacked Tanker Ship “Symrni” (Flag State  Liberia)  at  Arabian

Sea and took 26 crew members        (11  Indians)  hostage.

On  2nd  March,

2012, at 12.19 hrs, Somalian pirates hijacked Chemical Tanker “Royal  Grace”

(Flag Stage Panama) at Arabian Sea and took  hostage  22  crew  members  (17

Indians) and sailed the ship towards coast of Somalia.  Indian  seamen  were

employed through East India Shipping Agency, Mumbai (Report No.5).=

This Court is assigned the role  of  sentinel  on  the  qui  vive  for

protection of rights of citizens and steps  in,  in  exercise  of  power  of

judicial review for protection of Fundamental Rights  of  the  citizens,  if

the State fails to perform its duty.

At the same time,  this  Court  cannot

assume the  role  of  the  executive  to  oversee  the  sensitive  issue  of

coordination with international agencies and bodies for securing release  of

Indian citizens who are held hostages abroad, when  it  is  shown  that  the

departments of the Government have not only taken cognizance of the  problem

but also taken, in right earnest, whatever steps  could  be  possible.

The

issue of coordination at international  level  with  foreign  countries  and

international bodies has to  be  left  to  the  wisdom  of  experts  in  the

Government.  It is not a case where the State has not shown any concern  for

its citizens, but where unfortunate situation has come  about  in  spite  of

serious  efforts.   

Handling  of  the  situation  requires   expertise   and

continuous efforts.  It has not been  pointed  out  as  to  what  particular

direction can be issued in the circumstances.

While safety  and  protection

of the lives and liberty of Indian citizens is  also  the  concern  of  this

Court, the issue has to be dealt with at the level of the  executive.   From

the affidavit filed on behalf of the Union of  India,  it  is  evident  that

steps have been taken at various levels, though without complete success.

12.   It does appear that pirates operating from Somalia  have  become

serious menace to the safety  of  maritime  traffic  in  Gulf  of  Aden  and

Western Arabian Sea and three incidents involving Indian citizens  are  part

of series of such events.

Apparent cause is lack of  effective  Government,

as pointed out in the affidavit filed on behalf of Government of India.   It

appears that recently there is some change on  account  of  which  situation

might improve.  Combating piracy is imperative for safety  of  seafarers  as

well as successful world trade.

The issue is of international  concern  and

as already noted, it is receiving the attention of Government  of  India  at

highest level.  We do  hope  the  Government  of  India  will  continue  its

efforts for protection of affected citizens.

13.   In these circumstances, only direction which can be  issued,  at  this

stage, is that the matter may be periodically reviewed  at  the  appropriate

level and a nodal officer may be designated who may continue  to  coordinate

and oversee the efforts on the issue and  with  whom  the  families  of  the

victims  can  also  have  interaction  for  getting  information  or  giving

suggestions.

14.   With the above observations and  direction,  the  Writ  Petitions  are

disposed of.

 
 

2014 – Sept. Month – http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41896  

REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

WRIT PETITION (C) NO. 536 OF 2012

GAURAV KUMAR BANSAL … PETITIONER

VERSUS

UNION OF INDIA & ORS. … RESPONDENTS

W I T H
WRIT PETITION (C) NO. 26 OF 2014

RAJNI SINGH … PETITIONER

VERSUS

UNION OF INDIA & ORS. … RESPONDENTS
J U D G M E N T

Adarsh Kumar Goel, J.

1. These petitions seek directions to the Government of India to
intervene and expedite release of Indian Seamen held hostages by the
Somalian Pirates in the international waters on 29th March, 2010, 2nd
March, 2012 and 10th May, 2012 and to frame anti-piracy guidelines. Writ
Petition (C) No. 536/2012 described as PIL, is claimed to be by way of
legal aid to the captivated seamen at the instance of relatives of the
victims, while Writ Petition (C) No. 26/2014, also described as PIL, has
been filed by the wife of one of the captivated seamen. Thus, though
described as PIL, both the petitions seek enforcement of rights of
individual seamen who are held hostages at high sea.

2. Case of the petitioner is that three merchant vessels have been
hijacked in the high sea and out of the crew members held captive by the
pirates, eight persons continued to be detained by them. It is the duty
of the Government of India to take necessary steps to secure their release.
Representations have been made to the Government authorities, but effective
steps have not been taken to secure their release. Piracy is illegal as
per UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It is the fundamental
duty of the Member States to cooperate in preventing incidents of piracy.
International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is a UN specialised agency for
safety of shipping and prevention of marine pollution by ships. As per
information available on the website of IMO, armed pirates hijacked cargo
ship “ICEBERG-1” (Flag State Panama) in International Waters of East Africa
and took 24 crew members (6 are Indians) hostage and sailed the ship to
Somali coast on 29th March, 2010, at 9.30 hrs. On 10th May, 2012, at 9.23
am, pirates hijacked Tanker Ship “Symrni” (Flag State Liberia) at Arabian
Sea and took 26 crew members (11 Indians) hostage. On 2nd March,
2012, at 12.19 hrs, Somalian pirates hijacked Chemical Tanker “Royal Grace”
(Flag Stage Panama) at Arabian Sea and took hostage 22 crew members (17
Indians) and sailed the ship towards coast of Somalia. Indian seamen were
employed through East India Shipping Agency, Mumbai (Report No.5).

3. It has further stated by the petitioner that the Admiralty Offences
(Colonial) Act, 1849 provided for prosecution for offences at sea.
Suppression of unlawful acts against Safety of Maritime, Navigation and
Fixed Platform on Continental Shell Act (hereinafter referred to as SUA
Act) 2002 has been enacted by Indian Parliament and contains provisions for
dealing with the illegal activities which endanger the safety of maritime
navigation and the safety of persons and property on the sea. Union of
India has failed to protect the life and liberty of concerned Indian
citizens in spite of being approached for the purpose.

4. On 14th February, 2014, time was given to the learned counsel for the
Union of India to file an affidavit setting out the protocol, procedure and
process followed by the Government of India in matters like the present
where an Indian national is missing either on the high seas or elsewhere
and also to set out the details and efforts made in locating and rescuing
one of the missing persons. Accordingly, affidavit has been filed on 7th
March, 2014 by the Under Secretary, Ministry of Shipping, Government of
India, stating that since the year 2008, the pirates operating from Somalia
have become a serious menace for the safety of maritime traffic as well as
the crew members in the gulf of Aden and Western Arabian Sea and as a
consequence thereof, Indian seafarers have also suffered at the hands of
the said pirates. Ten Indian seafarers are held captive by the said
pirates, seven of whom are ex-Asphalt Venture, one ex-MT Albedo, while the
whereabouts of one Dheeraj Tiwari ex-MY Iceberg and one Rajbhar Rajoo
Prasad ex-MT Albedo are not known. MV Asphalt Venture was hijacked on 29th
September, 2010 with fifteen Indian crew members on board. The ship was
released on 16th April, 2011 with eight Indian crew members and seven crew
members were held back as hostages and they continue to be under the
custody of the pirates at unknown location. MV Albedo was hijacked on 26th
November, 2010 with crew members which included two Indians; one of the
Indian crew members died. The said vessel sunk off on 7th – 8th July,
2013, but one Indian seafarer is reported to be safe. The Indian crew
members were employed by the foreign owned registered vessels through
recruitment and placement service provider at Mumbai. The Government of
India has urged the ship owners and employers to initiate measures for the
release of Indian seafarers and also raised the subject of continued
captivity of Indian seafarers during the meetings held under the IMO and
Contract Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS). In case of
foreign owned and foreign registered ships, the Government is severely
constrained to take measures for release of seafarers held captive
by Somali pirates. It has been further stated in the above affidavit that
Government of India has put in place an institutional structure for crisis
management to ensure advance preparedness and quick response to counter
such unlawful acts. This set up has the Cabinet Committee on Security
(CCS) for taking major policy decisions, a Committee of Secretaries for
Anti Piracy and Hijack at Sea (COSAPH), chaired by Cabinet Secretary which
has the executive responsibility for hands on crisis management. The issue
of captivity of Indian seafarers and their release has been taken up in the
meetings of Inter-Ministerial Group of Ministers (IMG), a body reporting to
COSAPH set up under the Ministry of Shipping and headed by the Additional
Secretary, Ministry of Shipping, to address issues of hijacking of merchant
ships involving Indian seafarers. The IMG has members representing all
concerned Ministries and agencies like the Ministry of External Affairs
(MEA), the Ministry of Defence (MOD), the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA),
Intelligence Bureau (IB), the Cabinet Secretariat, and the Directorate
General of Shipping (DGS). This Group of Officers has been meeting
regularly to appraise the developing situations and review the efforts and
measures being taken by the various agencies within their concerned areas
of mandated responsibilities for securing the release of Indian hostages
who have been in captivity of Somalian pirates. Respondent No.2, Ministry
of External Affairs, as part of this IMG, has been closely co-ordinating in
securing early release of the Indian hostages of MV Asphalt Venture and MV
Albedo. The Government of India has consistently taken up the issue of
Indian seafarers of MV Asphalt Venture and MV Albedo, including with the
Somali Ambassador in New Delhi. Separately, the High Commission of India
in Nairobi, Kenya, which is concurrently accredited to Somalia, has
consistently taken up the issue of the Indian hostages of MV Asphlat
Venture and MV Albedo with the authorities in Somalia since the occurrence
of the incidents. Recently, High Commissioner of India in Nairobi wrote a
letter to the President of the Puntland State of Somalia on 14th October,
2013 seeking information on the Indian hostages of MV Asphalt Venture and
MV Albedo. However, no definite response has been forthcoming from the
Somali Government in this regard. Again, High Commissioner of India in
Nairobi visited Mogadishu from 21st – 22nd January, 2014 and met the Somali
President, Prime Minister and Principal Secretary, Foreign Affairs and
International Cooperation, and handed over the list of Indian hostages of
MV Asphalt Venture and MV Albedo and requested for providing any
information on them and for assistance in securing release of Indian
seafarers in the custody of the Somali pirates. However, no response has
been received in this regard so far.

5. It is further pointed out in the affidavit that at the International
level, pursuant to a United Nations Security Council resolution, a
‘Contract Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia’ (CGPCS) was established
in January, 2009 to coordinate anti-piracy efforts of the International
Community. India is a founder-member of the CGPCS and has been fully
engaged in the efforts to share information, coordinate actions of the
navies in combating piracy in the Gulf of Aden, raising public and merchant
marine awareness and examining legal issues with respect to apprehended
pirates. It has been further submitted that India chaired the CGPCS from
September, 2012 to December, 2012 including the 13th Plenary Session held
in New York on 11th December, 2012. India, during its Presidency of the
Security Council in November, 2012, organized an open debate on the subject
of piracy on 19th November, 2012 following which a Presidential statement
was adopted by the Council high-lighting the cause of the welfare of
seafarers. Respondent No.2 is also coordinating with the UN and other
international bodies like the Contract Group on Piracy off the Coast of
Somalia (CGPCS) to seek coordinated solutions to the problem of combating
piracy off the coast of Somalia. India has called for better coordination
of international efforts for escorting merchant ships and patrolling in the
region, preferably under the aegis of the United Nation. India has also
become a member of International Contact Group (ICG) on Somalia in 2013.

It has been submitted that representative of respondent No.2
participated in the 15th Plenary Session of Contact Group on Piracy off the
Coast of Somali (CGPCS) and Anti Piracy Week held in Djibouti from 10th
-15th November, 2013. During the visit, key contacts were made with all
the stake holders, including NGOs dealing with piracy and hostage crisis,
UNODC officials, officials from Somalia and its entities, i.e., Puntland
and Somaliland. The delegation also sought assistance of all the
stakeholders in securing early release of Indian seafarers of MV Asphalt
Venture and MV Albedo.

India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention of the Law of Sea
(UNCLOS), 1982, which defines piracy and pirates acts (Article 101). India
does not presently have a separate legislation on piracy. Therefore, it
was decided by the Government to prepare a comprehensive domestic
legislation on piracy in line with the UNCLOS definition of ‘piracy’ at the
earliest so as to ensure effective prosecution of the pirates and to act as
a deterrent to pirates. For this purpose, the Piracy Bill 2012 was
prepared by the MEA in consultation with the Ministries of Shipping,
Defence, Home Affairs and Law & Justice and tabled, with the approval of
the Cabinet, in the Parliament. Piracy Bill 2012 was listed in earlier
sessions of Parliament but, due to paucity of time, it could not be
considered. It is likely to be considered in the ongoing session of
Parliament for which External Affairs Minister has already issued a notice.

India has been providing assistance to Somalia in its capacity
building to enable it in combating piracy more effectively. It is not out
of place to mention that India has contributed US $ 3 Million towards
augmentation of the African Union Mission in Somalia during 2011-2012.

Somalia continues to be impacted by Civil War, terrorism and
the resultant instability and the State hitherto did not have full control
over areas in Somalia from where the pirates operate. The new Federal
Parliament was inaugurated on 20th August, 2012 ending the mandate of
Somalia’s eight year old Transitional Federal Government. The new
political dispensation in Somalia is in the process of taking over
effective control and, therefore, their role in securing release of
seafarers under the custody of pirates is expected to gradually increase.

The subject of ensuring the safety and security of seafarers,
sailing on the high seas, is being seriously taken up by the IMO and also
at the meetings of CGPCS. Several measures have been recommended which
include, following Best Management Practices (BMP-version 4) and deployment
of armed guards on board merchant ships. Prudent ship owners follow such
recommendations which has resulted in no cases of hijacking by Somali
pirates taking place during the last almost one and half year.
Informatively, in the cases of MT Asphalt Venture and MV Albedo, armed
guards were not deployed by their respective owners.

All the concerns of the families of Indian crew held captive by
pirates are duly transmitted to the concerned agencies through the
deliberations at the meetings of IMGO. The IMGO also reviews from time to
time the possibility of offering financial assistance to the families of
affected seafarers by way of granting ex-gratia payments wherever the ship
owners/employers abdicate their responsibilities in order to somewhat ease
the financial burden on the families of the captive seafarers. Respondent
No.3 had granted ex-gratia payments to the Indian families of MV Albedo, in
December, 2012. Further, the families of crew of MT Asphalt Venture have
been paid their wages till 2013 under the orders of the Hon’ble High Court
of Bombay.

The seamen held hostages in March, 2010 have not been released
till date is not correct as the MV Iceberg-I was captured on 29th March,
2010 and was subsequently released on 23rd December, 2012 along with all
the 22 crew of different nationalities except Sh. Dheeraj Tiwari, Chief
Officer whose whereabouts are not yet known and presumed to be still
missing/unaccounted for since 8th September, 2011, during the captivity
period. No other Indian national seafarer of MV Iceberg-I is currently in
Somali pirate’s custody since March, 2010 as contended by the petitioner.
The remnant eight Indian crew that continue to be in Somali pirates
captivity till date, are seven Indian crew ex-MT Asphalt Venture from 29th
September, 2010 and one Indian crew of MV Albedo.

6. Counter affidavit has also been filed by the Ministry of External
Affairs with almost similar stand. It may be worthwhile to reproduce the
relevant statement made in the said affidavit:-

“It is submitted that India has been providing assistance to Somalia in its
capacity building to enable it in combating piracy more effectively. It is
further mention that India has contributed US$ 3 Million towards
augmentation of the African Union Mission in Somalia during 2011-2012. It
is further submitted that Somalia continues to be impacted by Civil War,
terrorism and the resultant instability and the State hitherto did not have
full control over areas in Somalis from where the pirates operate. The new
Federal Parliament was inaugurated on 20.08.2012 ending the mandate of
Somalia’s eight year old Transitional Federal Government. The new
political dispensation in Somalia is in the process of taking over
effective control and therefore, their role in securing release of
seafarers under the custody of pirates is expected to gradually increase.”

7. In the affidavit filed on 11th April, 2013 in Writ Petition (C) No.
536 of 2012 steps taken in the matter have been stated as follows:-
“4. It is respectfully submitted that the Government has set up an
Inter-Ministerial Group of Officers (hereinafter referred to as the “IMG”)
headed by the Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Shipping to address
issues of hijacking of merchant ships involving Indian seafarers.
Furthermore, the IMG has members representing all concerned Ministries and
agencies and meets regularly to deal with the situation of Indian hostages
who are in captivity of Somali pirates.
5. It is further submitted respectfully that Ministry of External
Affairs and the Indian Missions abroad continuously seek the help of the
concerned foreign governments to liaise with ship owners and persuade them
to secure early release of Indian hostages held captive by Somali pirates.
6. It is respectfully submitted that Government’s relentless efforts in
securing release of Indian hostages on board the three merchant vessels,
namely, MV Iceberg, MT Smyrni and MT Royal Grace – mentioned in this Writ
Petition, have yielded significant results in the recent past that may be
summed up as following”
(i) 22 seafarers, including 5 Indian Seamen on board MV Iceberg, hijacked
on 29.03.2010, were rescued by the Puntland Maritime Police Force
(hereinafter referred to as the “PMPF”) in a humanitarian rescue operation
conducted on 23.12.2012 and subsequently arrived in India safely. These
seamen were held hostage on board MV Iceberg since March, 2010. Only one
Indian Seafarer on board MV Iceberg i.e. Shri Dheeraj Tiwari is still
missing as he was not found onboard at the time of the aforementioned
rescue operation. The Indian Government is making endeavours to ascertain
his whereabouts.
(ii) It is respectfully submitted that two vessels namely MT Royal Grace
and MT Smyrni were hijacked on 02.03.2012 and 10.05.2012 respectively. It
is further submitted that MT Royal Grace and MT Smyrni along with
multinational crew, including 28 Indians, were released by Somali pirates
on March 8/9, 2013. The two ships reached Salalah port in Oman on March 13
and March 14, 2013 respectively.
7. It is respectfully submitted that the 17 Indian crew members of MT
Royal Grace and 11 Indian crew members of MT Smyrni were received at
Salalah by officials from our Embassy and were extended all assistance.
Their travel to India was facilitated by our Mission. 11 crew members of
MT Smyrni safely arrived in India on March 18, 2012. 16 of the 17 Indian
crew members of MT Royal Grace have safely arrived in India till date. At
present, only 1 of the Indian crew members of MT Royal Grace (Captain) is
on board along with 2 Nigerians, 1 Pakistani and 1 Bangladeshi as minimum
manning requirement for the ship. He is expected to reach India once the
replacement crew is arranged by the ship owner.
8. It is respectfully submitted that the Ministry of External Affairs
(hereinafter referred to as the “MEA”), as part of the Government of India,
has been making all efforts to deal with piracy and hostage crisis. The
piracy issue is also taken up during all high level interactions with the
Government of Somalia.
9. It is respectfully submitted that at the International level,
pursuant to a United Nations Security Council resolution, a ‘Contract Group
on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia’ (hereinafter referred to as the
“CGPCS”) was established in January, 2009 to coordinate anti-piracy efforts
of the International Community. It is further respectfully submitted that
India is a founder-member of the CGPCS and has been fully engaged in the
efforts to share information, coordinate actions of navies in combating
piracy in the Gulf of Aden, raising public and merchant marine awareness
and examining legal issues with respect to apprehended pirates. It is
further submitted that India chaired the CGPCS from September, 2012 to
December, 2012 including the 13th Plenary Session held in New York on
11.12.2012. The Communique adopted by the CGPCS, inter-alia, highlighted
the need for greater International Cooperation for securing the early
release of hostages and their Welfare.
10. It is respectfully submitted that India during its Presidency of the
Security Council in November, 2012 organized an open debate on the subject
of piracy on 19.11.2012 following which a Presidential Statement was
adopted by the Council highlighting the cause of the welfare of seafarers.
11. It is respectfully submitted that India is a signatory to the United
Nations Convention of the Law of Sea, 1982 (hereinafter referred to as the
“UNCLOS”) which defines piracy and pirate acts (Article 101). It is
further submitted that India does not presently have a separate legislation
on piracy. Therefore, it was decided by the Government to prepare a
comprehensive domestic legislation on piracy in line with the UNCLOS
definition of ‘piracy’ at the earliest so as to ensure effective
prosecution of the pirates and to act as a deterrent to pirates. For this
purpose, the Piracy Bill 2012 was prepared by the MEA in consultation with
the Ministries of Shipping, Defence, Home Affairs and Law & Justice and
tabled with the approval of the Cabinet in the Lok Sabha on 24 April 2012.
The Bill was referred to the Standing Committee on External Affairs which
presented its report to the Lok Sabha on 14 August 2012. Based on
recommendations made by the Standing Committee and subsequent inter-
ministerial consultations held with all concerned Ministries/Departments,
Official Amendments to the Piracy Bill, 2012 were approved by Cabinet on 18
March, 2013.
12. It is submitted that, India has been providing assistance to Somalia
in its capacity building to enable it in combating piracy more effectively.
It is not out of place to mention that India has contributed US$ 3 Million
towards augmentation of the African Union Mission in Somalia during 2011-
2012.
13. It is further submitted that the MEA and the Indian Missions abroad
have played an important role in release of Indian Hostages on board MV
Suez, MV Fairchem Bogey, MV Savina Caylyn, MT Smyrni, MT Royal Grace and
others.
14. It is respectfully submitted that Somalis continues to be impacted by
Civil War, terrorism and the resultant instability and the State hitherto
did not have full control over areas in Somalia from where the pirates
operate. The new Federal Parliament was inaugurated on 20.08.2012 ending
the mandate of Somalia’s eight year old Transitional Federal Government.
The new political dispensation in Somalia is in the process of taking over
effective control and therefore, their role in securing release of
seafarers under the custody of pirates is expected to gradually increase.”
8. We have heard learned counsel for the parties.
9. Learned counsel for the petitioner submitted that this Court may
issue directions to the Government of India to take up the matter at the
international level and to secure the release of Indian citizens who have
been held captive by the Pirates. Learned counsel for the Union of India,
however, submitted that all necessary steps have already been taken and
will continue to be taken as the Government of India is concerned with the
issue of safety of its citizens and in the circumstances no direction is
called for.

10. There is no manner of doubt that a welfare State is protector of life
and liberty of its citizens not only within the country but also outside
the country in certain situations. Concept of parens patriae recognises
the State as protector of its citizens as parent particularly when citizens
are not in a position to protect themselves. The Preamble to the
Constitution, read with Directive Principles, under Articles 38, 39 and 39A
enjoins the State to take all protective measures to which a Social Welfare
State is committed. Interestingly, this doctrine has been recognised in
India even before the Constitution came into force. Referring to this
aspect, this Court, in Charanlal Sahu vs. Union of India[1] observed as
under:-

“35. ……Thus the position is that according to Indian concept parens
patriae doctrine recognized King as the protector of all citizens and as
parent. In Budhakaran Chankhani v. Thakur Prasad Shah AIR 1942 Cal. 311 the
position was explained by the Calcutta High Court at page 318 of the
report. The same position was reiterated by the said High Court in Banku
Behary Mondal v. Banku Behary hazra at page 205 of the report. The position
was further elaborated and explained by the Madras High Court in Medai
Dalavoi T. Kumaraswami Mudaliar v. Meddi Dalavoi Rajammal at page 567 of
the report. This Court also recognized the concept of parens
patriae relying on the observations of Dr. Mukherjea aforesaid in Ram
Saroop v. S.P. Sahi at pages 598 and 599. In the “Words and Phrases”
Permanent edition, Vol. 35 at page 99, it is stated that parens patriae is
the inherent power and authority of a Legislature to provide protection to
the person and property of persons non sui juris, such as minor, insane,
and incompetent persons, but the words “parens patriae” meaning thereby
‘the father of the country’, were applied originally to the King and are
used to designate the State referring to its sovereign power of
guardianship over persons under disability. (Emphasis supplied). Parens
patriae jurisdiction, it has been explained, is the right of the sovereign
and imposes a duty on sovereign, in public interest, to protect persons
under disability who have no rightful protector. The connotation of the
term “parens patriae” differs from country to country, for instance, in
England it is the King, in America it is the people, etc. The Government is
within its duty to protect and to control persons under disability.
Conceptually, the parens patriae theory is the obligation of the State to
protect and takes into custody the rights and the privileges of its
citizens for discharging its obligations. Our Constitution makes it
imperative for the State to secure to all its citizens the rights
guaranteed by the Constitution and where the citizens are not in a position
to assert and secure their rights, the State must come into picture and
protect and fight for the rights of the citizens. The Preamble to the
Constitution, read with the Directive Principles, Articles 38, 39 and 39A
enjoin the State to take up these responsibilities. It is the protective
measure to which the social welfare state is committed. It is necessary for
the State to ensure the fundamental rights in conjunction with the
Directive Principles of State Policy to effectively discharge its
obligation and for this purpose, if necessary, to deprive some rights and
privileges of the individual victims or their heirs to protect their rights
better and secure these further……”
11. This Court is assigned the role of sentinel on the qui vive for
protection of rights of citizens and steps in, in exercise of power of
judicial review for protection of Fundamental Rights of the citizens, if
the State fails to perform its duty. At the same time, this Court cannot
assume the role of the executive to oversee the sensitive issue of
coordination with international agencies and bodies for securing release of
Indian citizens who are held hostages abroad, when it is shown that the
departments of the Government have not only taken cognizance of the problem
but also taken, in right earnest, whatever steps could be possible. The
issue of coordination at international level with foreign countries and
international bodies has to be left to the wisdom of experts in the
Government. It is not a case where the State has not shown any concern for
its citizens, but where unfortunate situation has come about in spite of
serious efforts. Handling of the situation requires expertise and
continuous efforts. It has not been pointed out as to what particular
direction can be issued in the circumstances. While safety and protection
of the lives and liberty of Indian citizens is also the concern of this
Court, the issue has to be dealt with at the level of the executive. From
the affidavit filed on behalf of the Union of India, it is evident that
steps have been taken at various levels, though without complete success.

12. It does appear that pirates operating from Somalia have become
serious menace to the safety of maritime traffic in Gulf of Aden and
Western Arabian Sea and three incidents involving Indian citizens are part
of series of such events. Apparent cause is lack of effective Government,
as pointed out in the affidavit filed on behalf of Government of India. It
appears that recently there is some change on account of which situation
might improve. Combating piracy is imperative for safety of seafarers as
well as successful world trade. The issue is of international concern and
as already noted, it is receiving the attention of Government of India at
highest level. We do hope the Government of India will continue its
efforts for protection of affected citizens.

13. In these circumstances, only direction which can be issued, at this
stage, is that the matter may be periodically reviewed at the appropriate
level and a nodal officer may be designated who may continue to coordinate
and oversee the efforts on the issue and with whom the families of the
victims can also have interaction for getting information or giving
suggestions.

14. With the above observations and direction, the Writ Petitions are
disposed of.
………………………………………………….J.
[ T.S. THAKUR ]
…………………………………………………..J.
[ ADARSH KUMAR GOEL ]
New Delhi
September 9, 2014

———————–
[1] (1990) 1 SCC 613
———————–
18

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