Kerala nurse on death row: Mother seeks permission to travel Yemen to pay blood money
Chandigarh, December 3, 2023: As per media reports, The Delhi High Court Saturday sought Union of India’s stand in a plea moved by the mother of a Kerala nurse, Nimisha Priya, awarded death penalty in a 2017 murder case in Yemen, seeking a direction to the government to facilitate her travel to the country to negotiate with the victim’s family by paying blood money.
According to the news published in The Tribune, during the hearing, the petitioner-mother’s counsel said Priya’s appeal against death penalty has been dismissed by courts in Yemen and her “execution can take place any moment”.A single-judge bench of Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora issued notice to the Union Ministry of External Affairs and the Embassy of India, Yemen (Camp Office in Djibouti), which was accepted by Centre’s counsel Pavan Narang.
The petitioner, Premakumari, had approached the Delhi High Court earlier for a direction to the Centre to permit her to go to Yemen despite a travel ban to the nation for Indian nationals.
On November 16, the HC had directed the Centre to decide on the mother’s travel request within a week after the Centre said as per a September 26 notification, the travel ban “can be relaxed for specific and essential reasons”.
Thereafter on December 1, the MEA issued a letter to the petitioner advising her and other accompanying persons not to travel to Yemen at this juncture, urging her to reconsider her interest in doing so.
Narang argued that he will take specific instructions on the plea, but India doesn’t have any embassy or consular service/office available in Yemen, and everything has been shifted to Djibouti, Africa.
“We had advised them that please don’t go to Yemen because we won’t be in a position to provide them with even a single Indian person to help them or give them security. We don’t want people to go there and get exposed to something hostile. That was the reason this (MEA) letter was issued. We don’t have any connect with the current government in Yemen,” Narang said.
Apart from the direction to facilitate the mother’s travel, the plea also seeks a direction to the MEA and the Indian Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen (Camp Office Djibouti), to initiate negotiations with the victim’s family on behalf of the petitioner mother and report the same to the HC regularly.
Narang said the Union of India had “categorically stated” in a 2022 plea that as a government it cannot enter into any negotiations for any blood money to be paid to the victim’s family, however, it will provide legal help. Priya was provided with an advocate to look into her case and he had represented her, Narang said.
At this point, Justice Arora asked the petitioner’s counsel if she wants to travel at her own risk while orally observing that the December 1 letter seemed more like an advisory.
The petitioner’s counsel said they were willing to pay the blood money, but someone should negotiate on behalf of Priya, and that if the government cannot do it then the mother will have to go.
The Centre’s counsel told the court there were no flights from India to Yemen. Thereafter, Justice Arora told Narang, “You take instructions (from Centre) if the petitioner is willing to travel to the nearest country at her own risk, will you permit her to travel or not.” The court listed the matter for hearing on December 4 at 2.15 pm.
It also granted liberty to the mother’s counsel to consider if the Embassy of Yemen in India can be approached for prayer to “initiate negotiations with the victim’s family on behalf of the petitioner mother”.
The court, however, said Priya’s 10-year-old daughter cannot travel to Yemen as she cannot be exposed to any danger.
The mother’s plea claims that during the hearing on November 16, in her previous petition, the Centre’s counsel had orally informed the HC that the “Supreme Judicial Council/Supreme Court of Yemen had dismissed the appeal filed by Ms Nimishapriya Tomy Thomas on 13.11.2023”.
The present plea states that it’s unlikely that Priya will be spared the punishment awarded by the lower court “as the Apex Court rarely sets aside the verdict of the Appeals Court, as it will only examine if any procedural errors affected the outcome of the case, not its merits”. It states that the only other way is to “gain pardon from the family of the deceased by paying blood money to the family in accordance with the law of land (Shariah law)”.
Priya is accused of murder of a Yemeni national, Talal Abdo Mehdi, in 2017 by allegedly “injecting him with sedatives to get to her passport that was in his possession”, the plea states. She was sentenced to death in 2020 by a lower court in Yemen. An appeal filed against the death penalty was dismissed on March 7, 2022. Thereafter another appeal was moved before the ‘Supreme Court / Supreme Judicial Council’ of Yemen.