12 Sep 2009

Supreme Court on attack on Indian Students in Australia

It has been sometime now that Australia headed the top stories in India and not for enviable reasons. Indian students down under were subjected to tortures and mishaps and that led to the fury across the country. Television challens covered it 24*7 and all we saw was uproar everywhere against the tyrannical attitude facing these students. In so much as they have their origins in India, our sympathies were with them. The Government was under severe pressure to talk to their counterparts in Australia and to hold the tide. No sooner than this took place, a public interest litigation was filed in the Supreme Court by a practising lawyer.

Quoting news-reports, it was put before the Court that "97,000 Indian students are studying in Australia. In 2007-2008, there were 36,765 victims of crimes such as robberies and assaults of which 1447 were people of Indian origin." Further, around May-June, 2009, "one Indian student was brutally and painfully murdered, another was engulfed in a petrol pump, yet another was stabbed all over his body with a screwdriver by a mob in a public train and none of these crimes had anything to do

with the victims themselves but with their place of birth." It was also alleged that these attacks were racially motivated. This led a Vaction Bench of the Supreme Court to observe;
In our view, the Union of India must have taken adequate steps to ensure safety and security of Indian students. The matter may have been taken up at the highest level by the Union of India and the Ministry of External Affairs. Unfortunately, violence against Indian students in Australia has not stopped.
The parents, relatives and friends are naturally worried on the prevailing situation in Australia and Canada. They are legitimately entitled to know what steps have been taken regarding safety and security of their students studying in Australia and Canada. This may help them in deciding future course of action including withdrawal of students from various institutions.
The Government was accordingly directed to file its response on a sworn affidavit as to the action it had undertaken to halt such racial abuse. [Click here to see the first order].

The Government accordingly filed its response enumerating the steps taken to prevent the abuse such as, conversing with the Australian Government, co-ordinating with the State Police in Australia; creation of community reference groups; launch of investigations; etc. [Click here to read the second order, noting these actions taken]

Apparantly satisfied of the response taken, and perhaps also realizing the limitations of the judiciary in such matters requiring executive action, the petition was rather disposed off without any directions. The message was rather bleak. [click here to read the third and final order].

One would have expected the Court to atleast pass standing directions (requiring continuous compliance) to the Government to ensure that such incidents are not repeated but then, in matters of such discretion, it is better left to the Government to ensure on a rather pragmatic level that take adequate steps relating to the protection and liberty of its citizens within the country or abroad.

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