Distancing itself from going for a solution to the issue of missing Indians from Gujarat on way to the US illegally, the Gujarat high court suggested exploring the diplomatic channels to bring back the nine missing persons, who, their families suspect, are currently lodged in a Guadeloupe prison.
On the counsel’s insistence to direct authorities to expedite the process, the chief justice said, “They are illegal migrants. That is why some diplomatic action is needed. If we strictly go by the rule, they will not be able to come back.”
The petitioners’ advocate Yatin Oza informed the court that they sought intervention of Union home minister Amit Shah, who gave a positive response. Upon his directions, the process has been expedited to confirm a notice by Guadeloupe’s department of internal security about the presence of the missing persons in its prison. Instructions have been sent to authorities concerned in the French overseas territory to ascertain their whereabouts.
The chief justice said involving the minister concerned was the “better course” and “this will work fast as well”.
The petitioner’s counsel complained that central authorities had information about the presence of one of the missing persons, Sudhir Patel, in a Guadeloupe prison for quite some time, and it was only after the home minister’s intervention that they revealed the information.
In response to a PIL filed by the kin of the missing persons, the Centre filed an affidavit stating it was seriously pursuing the matter and assured the HC it will make every effort to find their whereabouts and continue to coordinate with the embassies/high commissions abroad and revert to the court.
The Centre placed before the HC the communications undertaken with embassies and high commissions in the Caribbean at the behest of the ministry of external affairs. The high court told the authorities to expedite the processes and report again after two weeks.
In August, relatives of nine persons had filed the PIL seeking the high court’s intervention and direction to Indian authorities to help locate them.
The court was told that Ankit Patel, Kiran Patel, Avani Patel, Sudhir Patel, Pratik Patel, Nikhil Patel, Champa Patel, Dhruvrajsinh Vaghela and Bharat Rabari set out for St Thomas in the US without valid visas on January 9. Their family members last spoke with them on February 3, when they were believed to be in Guadeloupe.
Six days later, the Guadeloupe government informed the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in India of their arrest.