The National Investigation Agency will not seek death sentence for the two Italian marines if they are convicted for killing the two Kerala fishermen but the agency might find its hands tied. The home ministry has ordered the NIA to probe the killing of the two fishermen but the agency would have to invoke a tough maritime safety law to move in. The NIA – created by a law to probe federal offences – can only investigate crimes that violate specified sections amongst a list of eight penal laws. The maritime safety law – that will need to be invoked to allow the NIA to take up the case – however, does not give the NIA or the courts any discretion to decide the quantum of punishment. It lays down that the only punishment for causing “death to any person shall be… death.”
This means that there is no latitude for a milder punishment in case of violence where the accused did not intend to kill the victim. Government sources, however, explain that this legal restriction could be reconciled with the sovereign assurance given by New Delhi not to send the marines to the gallows if convicted. In case the courts do hand out a death sentence, the government could always grant clemency to the convicts in line with the assurance to Italy.