SC absolves Centre for mysterious disappearance of sailors
New Delhi: The Supreme Court has refused to hold the Union government or its shipping authorities liable for the death of 10 Indian crew members aboard a foreign vessel Jupiter-6 which had mysteriously disappeared on high seas in 2005.
A bench of justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar also declined to enhance the compensation over and above the sum awarded by ship owners/insurers, but said its order would not affect the families of deceased crew from seeking enhanced compensation from appropriate forums.
Jupiter-6 along with its crew comprising 10 Indians and 3 Ukrainians had left Walvis Bay in Namibia on August 21, 2005 and was towing a dead ship Satsung on its way to Alang in Gujarat in India when it had gone missing.
Flag State Report of the Maritime Investigation Branch, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the ship owners stated that disappearance of Jupiter-6 along with her crew remains an enigma.
"In the facts of the present case, as we have noticed, the Surveyor Incharge-cum-Deputy Director General of Shipping has requested the Flag State to probe into the casualty within nine days of the information received about it.
"We are not in a position to hold that there was any inaction with malicious intent or conscious abuse or intentional doing of some wrongful act or negligence on the part of respondent nos. 1, 2 and/or 3 which was the proximate cause of the disappearance or death of the Indian seafarers on board Jupiter-6," said Justice Patnaik, writing the judgement.
The owners had also awarded USD 40,000 for each deceased officer seafarer and USD 25,000 for each deceased non officer seafarer.
The family members of the deceased crew, however, had moved the apex court seeking action against the government authorities for failing to protect their lives, conduct proper investigation and had also sought enhanced compensation.