HC ‘disappointed’ with conduct of External Affairs Secretary

Expresses anguish over delay in bringing body of fisherman from Saudi Arabia

The Madras High Court on Thursday expressed disappointment over the conduct of the Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, in not taking emergent steps to fly down the body of a Tamil fisherman who died last month when his boat hit an oil vessel in the Arabian Sea off Jubail in Saudi Arabia, where he was employed.

A Division Bench of Justices M.S. Ramesh and G.R. Swaminathan recorded their disappointment after the Central Government Standing Counsel represented that he was unable to obtain instructions from the Ministry despite a specific order passed by another Division Bench of the High Court on December 22 for speedy action. The judges gave a final chance to the counsel to obtain necessary instructions and adjourned further hearing on a habeas corpus petition filed by A. Justin, father of the deceased J. Brian Ignatius, 24, of Ramanathapuram district, to January 2. The petitioner had sought for a direction to bring back the mortal remains of his son from Saudi Arabia.

During the course of the arguments, the petitioner’s counsel L.P. Maurya pointed out that Ignatius, employed as a fishing labourer in a private firm in Saudi Arabia, had gone missing from the high seas on November 30 and his body was found on December 4. Yet, the Centre had not brought back the body for the final rites.

Status report

In a status report filed before the High Court on December 22, the External Affairs Ministry had said that immediately after receiving a message from Ramanathapuram Collector, the Indian Embassy contacted Mr. Libaris, a relative of the deceased working in Jubail, and obtained information regarding his death.

It claimed to have been told that body of Ignatius was found near the Alkhafji coast on December 4 and it was kept at a local hospital there. Further, the employer of the deceased had deposited in the Labour Office the unpaid salary due to him and a copy of the cheque was submitted to the embassy.

“The Embassy has requested the Coast Guard authorities on December 20 to expedite release of death-related documents,” the status report read. When Justice Ramesh wanted to know what were the death-related documents mentioned in the report, the Central government standing counsel could not reply for want of instructions.

Hence, the judges expressed their anguish over the way the case was being handled.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 7:07:13 AM |

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