Demand for SIT probe into killings of 39 Indian nationals in Iraq hostage crisis rejected

Delhi High Court: Gita Mittal, Acting CJ, speaking for the Court comprising of herself and C. Hari Shankar, J. rejected the petition seeking SIT probe in the tragic Iraq hostage crisis, holding the petition filed by the petitioner, a practicing advocate of the Court, to be a publicity stunt.

Through the writ petition that was submitted to be filed in public interest, the petitioner sought constitution of Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate into all the aspects of the ghastly hostage crisis in Iraq whereunder 39 Indian nationals were killed by ISIS (terrorist organization). The petition was premised on the alleged failure of the respondents to protect the lives of 39 Indian captives who were held hostage by ISIS in Iraq. The petitioner demanded a fair and impartial judicial probe to establish whether the failure to protect those lives was on account of mere negligence of duty or a deliberate and willful act.

Considering gravity of the issue, the High Court, in its extensively detailed judgment, perused each and every aspect concerned. Matters ranging from as wide as the factual basis to government efforts; from the right of the public to be informed to principles of natural justice, were covered by the High Court while deciding the case at hand. The Court observed that the instant case raised a critical issue regarding the appropriateness of Court intervention in matters of foreign diplomacy. The Court further observed the prayer made in the petition for public disclosure of more information would require divulgence of identity of Indian and foreign undercover assets, endangering their lives and seriously compromising national security. So far as the constitution of SIT was concerned, the Court observed that the incident happened in Iraq, and issuing letters to Iraqi officials under provisions of CrPC would be of no consequence at all. The Court held the prayer for the constitution of SIT as misconceived. While commending the Government’s efforts in bringing back the remains of 39 Indians killed by ISIS, the Court showed its displeasure at what it termed as petitioner’s malafide attempt to seek publicity in respect of the tragic incident. Holding it to be based on no credible material, the petition was outrightly rejected with costs quantified at Rs. 1,00,000. [Mehmood Pracha v. Intelligence Bureau, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 9499, dated 06-06-2018]

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