The Madras High Court bench at Madurai on Wednesday dismissed bail petitions of all the crew members of a US ship, arrested on charges of illegally carrying weapons on board the vessel and straying into Indian waters, stating the probe was in the initial stage and if they were released on bail, it could affect the investigation.
Justice M Sathyanarayanan said the petitioners did not provide sufficient documents to justify that they could be released on bail. The 35 crew members of the ship MV Seeman Ohio were arrested on October 18 by Tamil Nadu police after it was intercepted by Coast Guard. They were booked under Arms Act and Essential Commodities Act.
The ship crew was also accused of illegal purchase of diesel from local agents. The Judge, however, granted conditional bail to V Selvam, who was arrested along with five others for illegally providing 1500 litres of diesel to the ship.
The judge directed him to provide two personal sureties for Rs 10000 each and sign before the Q-branch police daily until further orders. But the anticipatory bail plea of Munithevan, who was also accused in the supply of diesel, was denied by the judge.
The captain of the ship, Dudinik Valentyn, nine other crew members and 25 guards of the ship in their bail plea alleged that the vessel was "asked to come to the port for taking shelter to escape from the cyclonic weather conditions in the Bay of Bengal.
On reaching the port, as many 25 officials from eight different agencies barged into the anti-piracy vessel and confined all the 35 crew and falsely claimed as if they intercepted the vessel on October 12."
The counsel for the crew contended that based on the Doctrine of Innocent Passage as envisaged in Section 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea-1982, no charge could be levelled against the crew.
Twenty two foreign nationals among the crew are lodged in the Chennai Puzhal Central prison while another from UK and 12 Indians are in the Palayalamkottai Central Prison in Tirunelveli.