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Delhi HC junks PIL seeking probe into killing of 39 Indians in Iraq

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New Delhi, Jun 6 :  The Delhi High Court today dismissed a PIL seeking a detailed probe into alleged “lapses” of the Centre in saving 39 Indians, who were killed by ISIS in Iraq in 2014, saying such pleas deserve “condemnation” and have to be “strongly discouraged”.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said the petition, by a lawyer, ignores the welfare, interest and sensitivities of the families of the victims as well as the need to ensure healthy international relations and diplomatic ties.

The court said the submissions made in the PIL by the lawyer, Mehmood Pracha, reflected “extreme insensitivity” to the tragedy that befell the 39 Indians and the devastation their family members would have undergone.

It further noted that the petition did not even refer to the elaborate steps, like getting DNA samples from the victims’ relatives and carrying out DNA profiling and matching, taken by the Indian and Iraqi authorities to establish the identities of the individual bodies.

“Thereby the petitioner is guilty of concealment of material facts,” the bench said and added “this writ petition in our view also is not guided by any motive of public interest.”

“The writ petition which ignores the welfare, interest and sensitivities of dependents and relatives of Indian citizens who were killed after being taken into custody by a militant organisation and the public interest in ensuring healthy international relations and diplomatic ties deserves condemnation in the strongest terms. Such attempts also have to be strongly discouraged.

“For all of these reasons, the writ petition is dismissed with costs which are quantified at Rs 1,00,000. Costs shall be deposited with the Delhi High Court Advocates Welfare Trust within four weeks from today,” the court said in its 31-page decision.

Pracha, in his plea, had contended that the Centre was aware long back that the Indians had been killed by the terror outfit after their abduction from Mosul, but had chosen not to disclose it and kept taking the stand that they were alive.

He had claimed that there were glaring anomalies in the statement made by the External Affairs Minister on the floor of Parliament.

He had sought an investigation into the deaths as he wanted to know when and how the Indians were killed.

Rejecting the arguments made by him, the bench said that he “has carried his submission to ridiculous lengths” by contending that the burden to prove the workers dead would fall on the External Affairs Minister which has not been discharged.

“To say the least, this submission in the present case is completely untenable given the extensive efforts to have the bodies exhumed from the mass grave and the elaborate exercise of procuring samples of Indian relatives, dispatching them to the Iraqi experts, ensuring the DNA profiling and matching undertaken by the experts at Iraq.

“This has been possible only because of the herculean efforts of the Ministry of External Affairs in India and Iraq as also the sensitivity with which this huge tragedy stands handled by the Indian authorities,” the court said.

It said that the petitioner’s attempts to “denigrate” the Indian effort “deserves to be staunchly deprecated”.

The court also rejected his plea for public disclosure of more information regarding efforts made by the Indian government, saying it would require divulging of the identity of Indian and foreign under cover assets abroad, which could endanger their lives and, possibly, seriously compromise national security.

The bench said his plea was “misconceived” and “nothing but a mala fide attempt to seek publicity in respect of the tragic unfortunate incident”.

Advocate Manik Dogra, who had appeared for the Centre and the Intelligence Bureau during the proceedings, had earlier told the court that the government does not say “missing, presumed dead”. He had added that “till 100 per cent confirmation of death, we continue to believe they are alive”.

The court was in agreement with the stand as it said that “this policy of the government cannot be faulted”.

“Imagine a situation where upon his/her going missing the authorities declared the person dead without confirmation and subsequently the person emerged alive. The action of the authorities would be labelled callous and negligent by persons as the petitioner,” it said.

Pracha had in 2015 moved the court challenging a look-out circular issued against him to prevent him and his delegation from going to Iraq.

In his PIL, he had claimed that the reason he was stopped from travelling to Iraq was to ensure that his delegation did not find out about the fate of the 39 Indians, whose bodies were recently exhumed from a mass grave in Badosh, a village near Mosul, and brought back.

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