Detained in prison despite their acquittal

A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court has directed the Superintendent, Central Prison, Thiruvananthapuram, to release four Iranian fishermen detained in the prison despite their acquittal in a case registered for illegally entering the Indian waters.

The Bench of Justice Pius C. Kuriakose and Justice P.D. Rajan issued the directive on Friday on a habeas corpus petition filed by Cherthala-based seafood exporter Joseph Varghese.

Fourteen Pakistani nationals and the Iranian fishermen on board the fishing vessel Al Javedi were detained by the Indian Navy in December 2010 while they were fishing in the international waters. The court ordered that the Iranians be put up in a lodge in the city, as chosen by the petitioner, till the procedure for their deportation was completed and the court or other competent authorities ordered otherwise. The court asked the Kochi City Police Commissioner to have a system in place for their surveillance.

The court directed the release of the Iranians as their travel documents were ready.

The court also directed that a proper place for the accommodation of the Pakistanis be identified and the same be reported to the court.

The case

The petitioner said that they were taken into custody when their fishing boat was sailing through the Arabian Sea owing to threat from Somalian pirates. They were later taken to Lakshadweep and handed over to the local police. The Kavaratti police registered cases against the 18 fishermen under the provisions of the Passport Act, the Foreigners Act, and the Maritime Zone of India (Regulation of Fishing by Foreign Vessels) Act. A juvenile on the board had been deported.

As the Kavaratti police could not unearth any incriminating material against them, they filed a final report before the Ernakulam Judicial First Class Magistrate-I dropping the charges under the Passport Act and Foreigners Act, but charge-sheeting them under the Maritime Zone of India Act.

In the meantime, the Centre had informed the court that the charges against the Iranian nationals had been dropped. Therefore, the court acquitted them.

The court later acquitted all the Pakistanis as well as there was not evidence against them.

  • Plea filed by Cherthala-based seafood exporter

  • The Iranians should be put up in a lodge in the city