Madurai: The Madras High Court bench on Friday ordered a notice to the police of Tharuvaikulam in Tuticorin district on a petition by crew of U.S. Ship 'Seaman Ohio' seeking to quash a lower court order dismissing their application to return their passports, documents and other belongings so that they could go back home.
Justice R Mala, admitting the petition, ordered that the notice is returnable within two weeks.
The petitioners submitted they had been exonerated of all charges and offences by the High Court on July 10 2014. There was no complaint pending against them now. Hence they had moved the judicial magistrate's court in Tuticorin, seeking return of their passports, documents and other belongings seized by the investigating agency and hand them over to the court. But the court had dismissed their application.
The crew, which includes captain Dudinik Valentyn and 33 others, contended they had already spent six months in prison before they were enlarged on bail. The court had dismissed the application on the ground that police are taking steps to file an appeal in the Supreme Court. The return of their documents and going on appeal were two different things.
The petitioners submitted that it was unfair on the part of police/court to withhold their documents. Refusal to return the documents was a blatant violation of fundemental rights, they argued and added they had been deprived of work, wages and family and dignified existence for the past 11 months. If the passports were not returned, it would result in crippling their future, they said.
The Indian Coast Guard detained the ship on October 12 off Tuticorin port last year for allegedly illegally entering Indian waters and also carrying weapons and Q branch police arrested the crew on October 18. The crew were also accused of illegal purchase of diesel from local agents.