The government is likely to hand over the case relating to the killing of two Kerala fishermen by Italian marines to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for further probe. It will also approach the Supreme Court again to clarify doubts on conducting the two accused marines’ trial in India.
Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone
The move is aimed at showing the government’s seriousness in ensuring that the marines are tried according to Indian laws and international treaties do not subvert the process of law in the country.
The government’s dual strategy follows internal consultations between the home and law ministries, in which it was proposed that a review petition be filed in the apex court to impress upon it that the central government has jurisdiction to hold the trial in India, HT has learnt.
An internal note prepared by the two ministries states that India’s laws on maritime safety and territorial water are not in conflict with any of the treaties or conventions of the United Nations.
The ministries concluded that the Safety of Maritime Navigation Act, passed by the Parliament in 2002, gives India full jurisdiction in the case.
“It is, therefore, proposed that this case be transferred to the NIA, which may make further investigation as it may deem necessary and present its final report/charge sheet before the designated court,” states the note.
“The hon’ble Supreme Court in its judgment has left the issue of whether India has the jurisdiction to prosecute the Italian nationals open. It has stated that the accused are at liberty to raise the issue of jurisdiction before the trial court.”
The government now wants to settle this matter once and for all.
The home ministry pointed out that the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, referred to by the Supreme Court, does not apply in this case “since it deals with piracy on high seas and in this case, the shooting took place within 20.4 nautical miles, which is within India’s contiguous zone”.