The Madras High Court Bench here on Wednesday dismissed the bail petition of 35 crew members of US ship M.V. Seaman Guard Ohio, who were arrested on charges of entering the Indian waters with arms and ammunition.
Justice M. Sathyanarayanan dismissed the petition on the grounds that the crew had not produced valid documents to possess arms and ammunition and that the investigation was at the crucial stage.
The Sierra Leone-flagged ship belonging to a U.S-based company, AdvanFort, was intercepted and detained by the Indian Coast Guard ship Naikidevi on October 12. The ‘Q’ Branch CID of the State police arrested the crew members, including Captain Dudinik Valentyn, on October 18, and seized the arms/ammunition on board the ship.
The crew was booked under various provisions of the Arms Act, 1959, Essential Commodities Act 1955, Motor Spirit and High Speed Diesel (Regulation of Supply, Distribution and Prevention of Malpractices) Order, 1998 and IPC.
The crew, comprising 12 Indians, 14 Estonians, 6 British nationals and 3 Ukrainians, moved the High Court after the Principal Sessions Judge, Tuticorin, dismissed their bail application on October 30, 2013, on the grounds that the investigation was at the preliminary stage.
In their petition, the crew members had alleged that the anti-piracy vessel was “lured into the port by treachery” and the claim of the Indian agencies that it was intercepted was false.
The ship was at least 19 nautical miles away from the Indian coast when it was asked to come to the port to escape from cyclonic weather conditions. It was “not involved in any activity prejudicial to the safety and security of the coast,” the petition stated.
The Indian agencies disregarded norms of international law by imposing their criminal jurisdiction beyond Indian territory, the crew claimed.
No licence produced
The crew had so far not produced the licence for keeping arms and ammunition, despite the assurance of the Captain on October 13 before a joint interrogation committee that the documents would be produced, they pointed out.
Justice Sathyanarayanan granted bail to P. Selvam, who was arrested on the charge of attempting to supply diesel to the vessel.