Italian marines' fate uncertain, centre seeks more time
Posted on Feb 04 2014 | IANS
New Delhi, Feb 3 : The fate of the two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen in 2012 remains uncertain as the government has requested the Supreme Court for more time to take a call on the provision of law under which they will be tried.
As the government Monday informed the Supreme Court that it needed more time to decide the course of law in trying the marines who shot at a fishing vessel off the Kerala coast Feb 15, 2012, mistaking the fishermen for pirates.
The apex court bench of Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice M.Y. Eqbal adjourned the hearing by another week as Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati told the court that the ministry of home affairs, the ministry of external affairs and the law ministry have yet to reconcile their views on the matter.
The court granted a week's time to the government to arrive at a definite conclusion and directed listing of the matter for hearing Feb 10.
After the government sought two weeks, the counsel for the two Italian marines petitioned the court that they be allowed to go back to their country and be asked to return once the Indian government took a call. Counsel offered to give an undertaking that the two would return to stand trial.
However, the plea was resisted by the attorney general, citing the Italian marines' reluctance to come back when they were earlier allowed to go back to their country in 2013.
The two marines, Chief Master Sergeant Massimilano Latorre and Sergeant Salvatore Girone, have moved the apex court drawing its attention to the delay in the start of their trial, which otherwise was to take place in a special court and conclude within one year.
The Supreme Court had ordered that the trial be concluded within one year and should be conducted on a day-to-day basis. So far, even the chargesheet in the case has not been filed.
The apex court bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir (since retired) and Justice J. Chelameswar had Jan 18, 2013, ruled that the Kerala government had no jurisdiction to try the two marines for shooting down two Indian fishermen off that state's coast Feb 15, 2012.
The apex court had said that it was only the union of India that had the jurisdiction to hold the trial.
The court, in its Jan 18, 2013 order, had said the central government, in consultation with the Chief Justice of India, will set up a special court for the trial.
The Italian government, the judges had said, would be free to raise the question of its jurisdiction to conduct the trial of these two marines in their country.
Upon raising this issue of jurisdiction, the special court would decide the question whether the government of India or the Italian government had the jurisdiction to try the marines.
The two marines, who served as security men on board the Italian cargo vessel Enrica Lexie, had shot dead two Indian fishermen, Gelestine, 45, from Kerala and Ajesh Binki, 25, from Tamil Nadu, February 2012.