Notwithstanding their return to India following a diplomatic stand-off between New Delhi and Rome, the two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen are far from facing a murder trial.
A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India Altmas Kabir, which ruled that Kerala had no jurisdiction to try Italian marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone had on January 18 directed the Centre to set up a special court, which would first decide if India had jurisdiction in the matter.
The special court which is to be set after consultation with the CJI to decide the marines’ contention that India did not have jurisdiction to try them.
The SC had shifted the two marines to Delhi and they are supposed to be under the custody of the Supreme Court till the Centre constituted the special court. In fact, while allowing the marines to go to Italy on February 22 to cast votes, the SC had even questioned the delay on the part of the government in setting-up the special court.
The SC had also made it clear that the transfer of the case from a court in Kerala to the special court will not prevent the Italians from invoking the provisions of Article 100 of UN Convention on Law of the Sea, 1982.
Upon adducing of evidence by the accused, the special court would decide the question of jurisdiction of Indian agencies to investigate the incident and the jurisdiction of Indian courts to try them may be reconsidered, the SC had said.
The Italian Marines were arrested on February 19, 2012 for shooting dead two Indian fishermen - Ajesh Binki (25) and Jelestine (45) - from merchant vessel 'Enrica Lexie' off Alapuzha coast in Kerala, allegedly 'mistaking' them for Somali pirates.
The marines had claimed Kerala Police had no jurisdiction to register a case against them as the incident took place in international waters and not in Indian waters.