'Explain procedure on Indians held hostage in sea'

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre to explain the standard procedure adopted by it if an Indian national went missing or held hostage in high sea.

“Will you be able to tell us when Indian is held hostage in some foreign country, how does government of India reacts to the situation? Is there any protocol? If somebody goes missing here, there are procedures to be followed like publication of notice etc,” a bench of Justices T S Thakur and C Nagappan asked senior advocate K Radhakrishnan, appearing for the union government.

The court posed the specific query to Radhakrishnan while hearing a PIL seeking directions to frame “effective” anti-piracy guidelines and take immediate steps for ensuring release of Indian sailor Dheeraj Tiwari held captive by Somalian pirates since March 2010.

Petitioner-advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal pointed out that the government did not act anything in the matter except writing a letter.

He also claimed that the government acted only when there was a hue and cry in the media.

Agreeing to his contention, the bench observed, “That’s a knee-jerk reaction. There must be a predictable standard response and clear laid out steps to be taken in case of such an eventuality.”

The court, however, granted six-week time to the Centre for “setting out protocol, procedure and process to be followed by the government of India when an Indian national is reported missing in high sea or international waters.”

The bench also granted time to the government on another PIL filed by Rajni Singh, wife of a sailor Bahadur Singh, who, along with nine others, had been missing in international waters.

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