Italy has assured to prosecute marines for killing Indian fishermen: Centre
The Indian government has told the Supreme Court that Rome has assured New Delhi that the Italian marines responsible for killing two Indian fishermen in 2012 will be prosecuted there after an international court held that they could not be tried in Indian courts due to immunity cover enjoyed by them.
The government made the above statement during hearing of its petition in the Supreme Court to close the case against two Italian Marines guilty of shooting Indian fishermen but the court said that it would first hear victim fishermen’s families before allowing Centre’s plea for closure and asked it to file a fresh plea making victims’ family members as parties to its application.
The court has also asked the Centre to ensure that adequate compensation is paid to families of fishermen killed by Italian marines.
The case against Italian marines was being investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The agency officials had indicated earlier this month that the Centre will move SC for closure of the case in the aftermath of the judgement by the UN Tribunal that said India couldn’t prosecute the marines.
The five-member arbitral tribunal, under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, said India is entitled to compensation in the case but said the marines deserve immunity and that India is “precluded from exercising its jurisdiction” in the case.
The UN tribunal said the marines enjoyed immunity since they were exercising official functions in their capacity as Italian state officials and ordered India to stop criminal proceedings against them.
Kerala High Court had earlier in a May 2012 judgment held that India had the jurisdiction to try the Italian marines since their act of shooting fishermen was neither in the defence of the vessel nor the state.
The Italian marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, moved the Supreme Court against the judgement following which the Supreme Court later granted them conditional bail allowing them to return to Italy in 2016.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has opposed the withdrawal of the case against the marines and asked the Centre to explore the possibility of a review petition.
The two fishermen were killed after the marines fired upon them, in Indian waters off the shore of Kerala, from an oil tanker they were deployed to protect from pirates. The ship was intercepted and brought to Kochi, where the marines were arrested and charged with murder.
NIA finalised a charge sheet against the marines in November 2013 when the probe report was submitted to the home ministry.
The ministry, in January 2014, had initially given a sanction to prosecute the marines under the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act and for murder and attempt to murder. The act provides for a death penalty. The sanction was withdrawn a month later after a review of charges held that the case did not warrant applying this act.
NIA was then asked to press charges related to murder, attempt to murder and causing damage to the boat of the fishermen.
India had accused Italy of attempting to delay the process of prosecution at every step.