SC Pushes Govt to Bring Back Indian Construction Workers Abducted by IS
Concerned over the fate of 39 Indians taken hostage by ISIS one-and-a-half-years ago from a construction site in Iraq’s Mosul, the Supreme Court on Friday asked the External Affairs Ministry to appoint a nodal officer to ensure better coordination with Baghdad and international agencies for securing their release. The direction came after a PIL was filed by lawyer Gaurav Kumar Bansal, who sought a direction to the MEA to intervene and expedite the process of release of the abducted Indians.
Bansal claimed he had information that the abducted Indians may not be alive. “I have learnt that one of the missing persons Harjit Masih, who successfully managed to escape from the hands of ISIS, is claiming that all Indian Nationals were asked to kneel shoulder to shoulder by militants dressed in black near a railway track and were shot at one by one,” said the PIL.
The court’s direction comes five days after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met families of those abducted and, based on her recent meetings with Arab and Palestinian leaders, told them they were “alive”.
Swaraj had also assured them the Centre was “fully and continuously engaged” and “every possible effort” was being made to ensure their release. Bansal said an RTI revealed that the MEA is yet to issue a “protocol” for securing release of those abducted. “It is pertinent to mention here that the absence of protocol provides the government a free hand to follow such modus operandi which suits them most,” said his PIL.
The SC’s direction was in line with what it had ordered in a case where seven Indian seamen were held captive by Somali pirates since 2010. A nodal agency, which was formed by the MEA after the SC direction, was very effective in that case and the seamen were rescued within months.
While Bansal tried to convince the court that the Iraqi kidnapping case stood on a different footing and direct interference of the court was required, the CJI said: “Even if they are at a sea or a desert, rescue is a rescue. Some were taken away by pirates some taken away by ISIS, but the issue and concern is the same.”