New Delhi (PTI): India is in touch with Iran to secure the release of 17 Indians on board an Israeli-linked cargo ship that was seized by the Iranian military near the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday amid fears that Tehran may retaliate for a suspected Israeli strike on its consulate in Damascus on April 1.

Official sources said India has called on Iranian authorities through diplomatic channels, both in Tehran and in Delhi, to ensure the welfare and early release of the 17 Indian crew members of the cargo ship 'MSC Aries'. "We are aware that a cargo ship 'MSC Aries' has been taken control by Iran. We have learnt that there are 17 Indian nationals onboard," an Indian government source said. "We are in touch with the Iranian authorities through diplomatic channels, both in Tehran and in Delhi, to ensure security, welfare and early release of Indian nationals," it said. The Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) said it is working closely with relevant authorities for the well-being of the 25 crew members and the return of the vessel.

The Iranian action came amid heightened fears that Tehran may launch an attack on Israel in retaliation to a strike on the Iranian consulate in Syria 12 days ago. Iran blamed Israel for the strike. Iranian news agency IRNA reported that the Portuguese-flagged vessel is operated by the Zodiac Maritime Shipping Company, which is partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer. It said Special Naval Forces of Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) seized MCS Aries near the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday, adding the forces carried out a heliborne operation on the ship's deck, directing it towards Iran's territorial waters.

Amid the escalating tensions between Iran and Israel, Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said "Iran will bear the consequences for choosing to escalate the situation any further." On Friday, US President Joe Biden cautioned Iran against an attack on Israel. "We are devoted to the defense of Israel. We will support Israel. We will defend -- help defend Israel. And Iran will not succeed," he told reporters.

In a brief update, the UK's Maritime Trade Operations agency mentioned the seizing of the ship by "regional authorities" off the coast of Fujairah in the UAE. It did not mention the involvement of Iranian forces. There have been mounting tensions in West Asia following the attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1. Iranian media reported that seven Revolutionary Guards personnel, including two generals, were killed in the attack.

Following the seizure of the cargo ship by the Iranian military, Israel's Foreign Minister Israel Katz called on the international community to immediately declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organisation. "The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps have seized a Portuguese civilian cargo ship, belonging to an EU member, claiming Israeli ownership," he said on 'X'. "I call on the European Union and the free world to immediately declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guards corps as a terrorist organization and to sanction Iran now," he added.

According to some reports, the ship was coming to India's Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) through the United Arab Emirates. However, there is no official confirmation of it. India had on Friday asked its citizens not to travel to Iran and Israel.


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New Delhi (PTI): The BJP on Friday moved the Supreme Court, challenging a Calcutta High Court order that refused to interfere with a single-judge verdict directing the party not to publish any advertisement violating the Model Code of Conduct during the Lok Sabha election process.

The matter was mentioned for urgent listing before a vacation bench of Justice Bela M Trivedi and Justice Pankaj Mithal.

Advocate Saurabh Mishra, who mentioned the matter, told the bench that a division bench of the high court passed the order on May 22.

"Why don't you move the next vacation bench?," the bench asked.

The counsel told the bench that the high court has restrained the BJP from issuing advertisements during the Lok Sabha polls till June 4.

"Kindly have it on Monday (May 27)," the lawyer requested the bench.

"We will see," the bench said.

On May 22, a Calcutta High Court division bench refused to interfere with a single-judge order in the matter.

Observing that a "laxman rekha" should be adhered to, the division bench had said there should not be any personal attack on the part of any political party.

Refusing to interfere with the May 20 order of the single judge, the division bench had said the BJP could move the single judge, seeking a review or recall of its order.

The BJP had moved the appeal before the division bench, claiming that the single judge passed the order without giving it any hearing.

The party's counsel had also stated that the Constitution provided that the Election Commission was the appropriate authority for redress in case of any dispute during a poll process.

The high court on May 20 issued an injunction, restraining the BJP from publishing advertisements that violated the Model Code of Conduct until June 4, the day the Lok Sabha election process ends.

The court also restrained the BJP from publishing advertisements mentioned by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in its petition, claiming unverified allegations against it and its workers.