In response to questions on the decision of the Court in the Republic of Korea to sentence two Indian mariners, an Indian government spokesperson said, on Dec. 15, 2008:
"Government of India is aware of the decision of the Court in the Republic of Korea to sentence two Indians – Captain J. S. Chawla and Chief Officer Chetan Syam – to prison sentences in connection with an accident involving the ship “Hebei Spirit” off the Korean coast last year.”
“This matter was taken up by Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs today with the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea. At this meeting Government’s disappointment about the decision of the Court to reverse the earlier decision in which the two merchant marine officers were exonerated, as well as Government’s distress at the harsh prison sentences, was conveyed to the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea. Secretary (East) also conveyed our expectation that the Government of the Republic of Korea would ensure humane treatment to Captain Chawla and Chief Officer Syam in keeping with their professional status, and that due sensitivity will be shown to cater for their personal requirements. The Ambassador of the Republic of Korea has assured the Ministry of External Affairs that Government’s concerns will be communicated to the Korean authorities.”
“Government of India has earlier taken up this matter at all levels in the Government of the Republic of Korea in the past few months. The Ministry of External Affairs raised this issue with the Korean side at the Foreign Office Consultations on 25th November 2008. The Ministry of External Affairs also raised it again with the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea in New Delhi on 4th December 2008 as well as with the Korean Foreign Ministry through the Indian Ambassador in Seoul on 5th December 2008. Our High Commission in London, which is our representative at the International Maritime Organization, has also raised this matter in that forum. Moreover, our Minister of Shipping, Road Transport & Highways, during his visit to the Republic of Korea in October 2008, had also drawn the attention of the Korean Minister for Maritime Affairs to this matter.”
“Ministry of External Affairs understands that the lawyers of the two Indian nationals intend to file an appeal against the judgement shortly. We have conveyed to the Korean Government our hope that the two officers will be given bail pending the hearing of the appeal. We also hope that a fair hearing will be held on the appeal, and that the Court will take into account the full circumstances including the cause of the accident, the payment of compensation by the IOPCF and the likely impact that the judgement will have on the maritime community.”
“The Korean Government is fully aware of the high attention that this matter is receiving in India. Government of India intends to continue to pursue this matter with the Korean side, in the backdrop of the close and cordial relations that exist between the two countries."