Compensation pending, SC adjourns Italy marines case
The Supreme Court on Monday adjourned to next week a plea by the central government to close all proceedings in India against the Italian marines who killed two fishermen off the coast of Kerala in 2012.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde took note of a submission by the government’s lawyer Rajat Nair that they were yet to receive the compensation amount from the Italian government. “We will deposit the money in this court within 24 hours of receiving it from the Italian counterpart. Although the process of transferring the money has been initiated, we are yet to receive it,” Nair told the bench, which also included justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
At this, the bench recalled that it was always of the opinion that the case should be listed on a later date but it was the government which was in a hurry to have a hearing as soon as possible. On April 9, the court had asked Italy to deposit ₹10 crore with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) as agreed upon by the Italian government for disbursal to the families of the slain fishermen and the injured boat owner. While the bench contemplated deferring the matter for 15 days to complete these formalities, solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who represented the Centre, asked for an “earliest possible date” since the MEA would deposit the money in the court registry within three days of receiving it.
Amused by the zeal of the government for the closure of proceedings against the two marines before the top court and a criminal trial pending before a special court in Delhi, the Supreme Court then remarked that it expected the government to act with the same speed in other cases too.
“We will like it if you act with the same speed in other matters too. Here, (in this case) you are asking for three days. Normally, you ask at least for two weeks or four weeks’ time,” CJI Bobde had commented.
The court was dealing with an application by the Centre filed in July 2020 wherein it said that all proceedings in India against the two marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, should be closed since the Union government has accepted the May 2020 decision of the international arbitral tribunal. The tribunal ruled that the marines enjoyed immunity and hence only Italy could try them whereas India was entitled to compensation.
Subsequently, during a hearing in August 2020, the bench had clarified that it would close the proceedings only after the families of the victims were heard and given “adequate” compensation, after it noted that the victims’ families were not parties to the case before the Supreme Court.