The Delhi High Court Tuesday sought Centre's response on a plea seeking repatriation of five Indian seafarers stranded in Iran after their acquittal in a criminal case there. Justice Rekha Palli granted time to Central government counsel to seek instructions on the petition filed by the fathers of the five seafarers. "What are you doing? You get instructions in these kinds of matters", the judge told advocate Harish Vaidyanathan, who was appearing for the Centre. While the petition was listed for hearing on July 27, advocate Gurinder Pal Singh, representing the petitioners, urged the court to pass immediate directions to give financial assistance to the seafarers in Iran. The counsel said that at the moment, the seafarers were surviving at the mercy of God fearing Iranians. "Let him (Centre's counsel) get back with instructions," the court responded as it clarified that it was not seeking any counter affidavit from the centre at this stage. The court was informed that in 2019, the seafarers had begun work at a cargo vessel in Iran.
However, in February 2020, the vessel was raided by the Iranian authorities and the five Seafarers were arrested for allegedly conspiracy to smuggle narcotics in deep sea, the counsel said adding that they were acquitted by a court in Iran in March this year. He said despite repeated representations, no action was taken by the respondent to come to their aid and the five seafarers had spent the last 450 days in Iran. It is submitted in the petition that the Iranian authorities refused to hand over the passports of the seafarers on account of the case being referred to the Supreme Court of Iran. While the matter has still not been decided by the Supreme Court of Iran, the Seafarers are in a limbo. They are not only stranded in Iran, they have no source of income., the petition said. The petition also said that in a state of desperation, the five stranded Indian Seafarers even recorded a video message on July 10, 2021, requesting the Hon'ble Prime Minister to intervene in the matter. Given their pitiable condition, the central government and the Indian Embassy in Tehran should provide legal assistance, a roof to live under and adequate monetary assistance to the Seafarers, the petition said.