The National Investigation Agency (NIA) may find itself in a legal tangle after it files its chargesheet against the two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in February last year.
According to the government notification issued on the Supreme Court’s directions, the NIA is set to file its chargesheet in the court of the chief metropolitan magistrate (CMM) at Patiala House court complex.
After taking cognisance of the chargesheet, the CMM will commit the case for trial in the court of additional sessions judge Dharmesh Sharma.
However, officials in the Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) said there was no provision for a separate committal court in the NIA Act that governs the agency.
For serious offences under the Indian Penal Code, all pre-trial proceedings take place in a magistrate court.
But once the chargesheet is filed by a probe agency, the magistrate court takes cognisance of it and commits it to a higher sessions court for further proceedings.
“Under the NIA Act, remand proceedings, filing of chargeheets, framing charges or further trial – all take place in a sessions court,” said an MHA official on condition of anonymity.
“The provision of a committal court was done away within the NIA act to speed up proceedings. But in the Italian marines case, on the directions of the Supreme Court, two courts were designated – a magistrate court as well as a sessions court.”
Though sources in the NIA say they will follow the apex court’s directions, they apprehend that the defence may take advantage of this legal point during trial.
The NIA is awaiting the MHA’s sanction to file the chargesheet in the designated court.
On February 15, 2012, Italian Navy marines Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre on-board a privately owned oil-tanker had allegedly opened fire on an Indian fishing trawler off the coast of Kerala. Two crew members of the fishing trawler were killed.