Last week, security forces captured 28 Somali pirates and rescued the Thai fishermen they had held hostage, and sailed more than 400 nautical miles from the Lakshadweep coast to Mumbai to hand over the pirates to the Yellow Gate police station.
Littoral states such as Kerala, Karnataka could have handled the case, but it had to come to the Yellow Gate police station because it is the sole custodian of India’s western coast. The jurisdiction of this south Mumbai police station stretches from the coast of Kandla in Gujarat (near the Indo-Pak border) to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu.
Any incident that occurs beyond 12 nautical miles off the western coast and up to 300 nautical miles in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone, is the Yellow Gate police’s responsibility. That is a stretch of nearly 1,600 nautical miles, the police said.
An officer from the Yellow Gate police station, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media, said that this vast jurisdiction creates many practical problems.
In the present case of the arrest of Somali pirates, the spot panchnama — recording evidence at the scene of crime — is yet to be done. “We haven’t visited the spot because we don’t have boats that can go beyond 12 nautical miles in the high seas,” the officer said. “We have to depend on the Navy or the Coast Guard. The delay could affect the case.”
The 90-year-old police station, known as the Harbour Police Station during the British Raj, is also facing a space crunch.
Following the crackdown on pirates, the lock-up is teeming with pirates. The 44 Thai and Myanmarese fishermen rescued recently are staying in a shed in the police station’s compound, amidst containers, machinery and vehicles, seized from various vessels.
“As the number of incidents along the western coast has increased, the workload of the police station has also increased,” joint commissioner of police (law and order) Rajnish Seth said. With increased activity along the trade route in the Arabian Sea, the police station also gets cases related to merchant vessels. “We will consider the workload and decide whether we need additional set-ups,” Seth said.
Police sources told the HT that the idea of dividing the workload of the Yellow Gate police station has already been discussed at the highest level in the state. “A proposal has already been moved that all the littoral states [in western India] should share the responsibility by earmarking at least one of their police stations for incidents occurring in the high seas close to them,” a police officer said, requesting anonymity. “But the proposal is pending because earmarking jurisdiction in the high seas is a tough task.”
If the Yellow Gate police station on the western coast, the Garden Reach police station in Kolkata guards the eastern coast, handling offences taking place as far as near the Andamans, almost close to Indonesia.