Gujarati Visitors Detained at France’s Island: Seek HC Relief After Year

Nine individuals from Gujarat embarked on a journey to the Caribbean island of France but have remained unaccounted for a year. Balwantsinh Vaghela, Rekhaben Patel, Jitendra Kumar Patel, Advocate Masum Shah, and Advocate H.K. Dholakia filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Gujarat High Court concerning this matter. The bench, comprising Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice Anirudh Mai, presided over the hearing where the applicants’ lawyer expressed concerns about the possible detention of these individuals.

Missing Since February 3: A Disturbing Timeline

According to the applicants, these nine individuals disappeared on February 3, 2023, during their trip to the Caribbean islands under France. They were last seen traveling by boat from the Commonwealth of Dominica to the island of St. Martin and have not been heard from since. Speculations suggest they might be stranded or detained on a Caribbean island.

Pursuit of Answers: Government Involvement and Legal Hurdles

The Ministry of External Affairs and the Home Minister of India were informed about this issue, urging their involvement in locating the missing individuals. Despite efforts from the Government of India, the latest information indicates the possibility of them being stranded on Guadeloupe Island. However, the petitioner’s lawyer highlighted the challenges in obtaining information due to the stringent visa requirements, suggesting a likelihood of them being held in a detention center.

Legal Maneuvers: Seeking Expedited Visa and Court Assistance

To expedite visa procedures, the applicant has enlisted the help of a local woman advocate and a Paris-based advocate. Two additional lawyers are expected to accompany them. However, the court declined to intervene in the visa process, despite efforts to seek assistance. The petitioner admitted to traveling to a nearby country without a visa and also reached out to the police in the Dominican Republic for assistance.

Niyati Rao

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