The Kerala High Court has directed the Union Home Ministry to take immediate steps to deport 14 Pakistani fishermen, who were arrested for illegally entering Indian waters in 2010 and are lodged in prison in the state despite their acquittal.
A division bench comprising justices Pius Kuriakose and P D Rajan issued the direction on a Habeas Corpus petition filed by Joseph Varghese, a seafood exporter.
The Pakistani nationals along with four Iranian fishermen were detained by the Indian Navy in December 2010 near Bitra island in Lakshadweep when they were fishing. Their fishing boat was sailing through the Arabian Sea due to the threat of Somalian pirates when they were taken into custody and taken to Lakshadweep Islands and handed over to police, the petitioner said.
Cases under provisions of Passport Act and the Foreigners Act and the Maritime Zone of India (Regulation of Fishing by Foreign Vessels) Act were registered against the fishermen.
However, since no incriminating documents were found against the accused, police dropped the charges and filed a final report before the Ernakulam Judicial First Class Magistrate. The Union government also informed the court that charges against the four Iranians had been dropped following which they were acquitted. Since there was no evidence against the Pakistani nationals, the court ordered their release too.
But despite the court order, the Iranian and Pakistani fishermen continued to be lodged in the central prison at Thiruvanathapuram, following which the habeas corpus petition was filed.
The court was informed that the travel documents of the Iranians were ready and they would leave today while those of the Pakistani nationals would be ready in two days.