Kerala government on Wednesday said it would go ahead with the prosecution of two Italian naval guards who allegedly killed two Indian fishermen off Kollam coast, maintaining "it is the right and power of the state".
"The two Italians have been booked under Section 302 of IPC and government's stand is it will proceed with the investigation. It is the right and power of the state. The Centre has extended full support to Kerala's position," chief minister Oommen Chandy said.
His statement assumes significance in the light of Cardinal Mar George Alancherry's reported statement urging state authorities not to resort to "precipitate action" and warning the opposition against trying to "exploit the situation". The Syro-Malabar church has, however, said his statement has been 'distorted' by the media.
Chandy, speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting, which reviewed the steps taken after the incident, said Kerala viewed the killings "very seriously" and has not accepted arguments of Italian officials on the issue.
"While pursuing investigation and prosecution, Kerala will also take up with the owners of the ship, the issue of paying due compensation to families of the fishermen killed," he said.
He said he had written to external affairs minister SM Krishna thanking him for India's 'stern stand' on the issue, that paved the way for the arrest of two guards, Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Gironi.
Referring to a court issuing a search warrant of 'Enrica Lexie', now anchored off Kochi port, Chandy said police would take necessary steps on the matter as per the court directive.
He said Kerala's position would be same during the Italian foreign minister's scheduled visit to India next week.
Chandy said the Cabinet also decided to provide a job to the wife of Valentine, a fishermen from Kerala who was among the two killed, at the state fisheries department.
The other fishermen killed was Ajeesh Binki from Tamil Nadu but government had not shown any discrimination in paying compensation of Rs five lakh each to the families of the two fishermen, he said.