Concerned over NIA slapping murder charges against two Italian marines, Italy's Prime Minister Mario Monti on Friday called up External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, who apprised him of the recent developments in the case.
The call by Monti followed a meeting between Khurshid and Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura who asked India to keep his government posted on the developments in the matter.
The meeting comes in the backdrop of NIA registering murder case against the two Italian Marines for allegedly killing two Indian fishermen off Kerala coast last year. The charge entails maximum punishment of death penalty. However, Khurshid, in Parliament last month, had ruled out that case will attract death penalty.
"...according to well settled Indian jurisprudence, this case would not fall in the category of matters which attract the death penalty, that is to say the rarest of rare cases.
Therefore, there need not be any apprehension in this regard," Khurshid had said while informing Parliament about Italy reversing its initial decision of not sending the marines back.
Khurshid provided Mistura an update of the developments since their meeting last month, including the lifting of travel restriction on the Italian envoy by the Supreme Court, official sources said.
He also informed the Minister of the steps being taken in compliance with the Supreme Court directions at the last hearing and intentions of the government to inform the apex court on April 16 of the efforts made to constitute a Special Court, the sources added.
Following the meeting, Italian Prime Minister, who is also holding charge of Foreign Ministry, had a telephonic conversation with Khurshid on the same subject, the sources said.
The Supreme Court had on April 2 vacated its order restraining Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini from leaving India following the return of the two Italian marines to face trial here as per his commitment to the court.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir vacated its March 14 order by which it had restrained the Ambassador from leaving the country after the Italian government had refused to send back the marines.
The Supreme Court had also pulled up the Centre for not setting up special court for conducting proceedings against the marines as directed by it on January 18.
The two marines, Massimiliano Latore and Salvatore Girone, were on board an Italian vessel 'Enrica Lexie' when they allegedly shot dead two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast on February 15, last year.
The Home Ministry had handed over the case to National Investigation Agency, which has submitted an FIR before the Special NIA court booking the marines under sections 302 (Murder), 307 (Attempt to murder), 427 (mischief) along with section 34 (Common intent) of IPC.
The NIA also booked them under the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, 2002.
The law deals with cargo ships and maritime navigational facilities whose personnel indulge in offences committed in sea. The maximum penalty in this section is death in case the action by those onboard has resulted in killing.