A lawyer, representing eight Pakistan nationals caught last year for allegedly smuggling 232 kgs of heroin, has claimed that they were illegally detained by the Mumbai Police. The sailors, the lawyer claimed, were intercepted more than 300 kilometres away from the western coast, beyond the jurisdiction of the Mumbai Police.
In arguments submitted last month to a special court, which is hearing a plea to discharge the sailors, advocate Swapnil Patil has said Al-Yaseer, a Karachi-registered boat in which the eight men were sailing, was intercepted by the Coast Guard 260 nautical miles (481 kilometres) off the coast of Gujarat.
A search of the boat, which the Coast Guard had been following, had revealed 11 blue plastic drums filled with heroin. The investigation, subsequently conducted by Mumbai’s Yellow Gate Police, claimed that the heroin, worth Rs 6.96 crore, was to be transferred on to another boat sailing from Dubai and to be later sold in India.
According to a notification issued by the Maharashtra Government on November 13, 2013, crimes committed within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometres) from the coastline are to be investigated by the local coastal police station and any criminal activity taking place within the next 300 kilometres along the entire western coast of the country are to be probed by Yellow Gate police station.
The police had inserted a copy of the notification in its reply to the discharge application. Patil has also quoted an order of a court in Porbandar – which observed that the boat had been intercepted 260 nautical miles from the coast – while directing the Coast Guard to hand over the custody of the sailors to the Yellow Gate police.
Patil has gone on to argue that the sessions court in Mumbai “has no jurisdiction to try an offence which is alleged to have been committed by a foreign national in a foreign vessel outside the territory of India.”
The police however, have insisted before the court that the interception took place inside India’s maritime boundary and dismissed allegations of illegal detention.