With the next Supreme Court hearing in the marines’ case nearing, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti on Tuesday called up his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh to confirm the no-death-penalty “assurance”, only to be told that it was “premature” to provide any such guarantee till the investigations were over.
Monti, who also holds the foreign affairs portfolio, had spoken to External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on April 5, a few hours before the NIA filed an FIR against Massimilano Latorre and Salvatore Girone for fatally shooting two Indian fishermen in international waters off the Kerala coast. The charges have been framed under various criminal laws, including the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, which entails capital punishment.
This has spooked the Italian government, which had asserted that one of the positive consequences of the diplomatic stand-off with India had been the guarantee that the death penalty would not be insisted on by the prosecutors.
India had, however, stated that it was not a guarantee, but only a clarification that the criminal act of the killing of the two fishermen wouldn’t normally fall under the rarest of rare category and therefore wouldn’t attract capital punishment. According to sources, Manmohan recalled the clarifications provided by the Ministry of External Affairs to Italy in its earlier communication prior to the return of the marines. Manmohan also referred to a recent meeting between Khurshid and Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura. He told Monti that the process of setting up a special court was at a “fairly advanced stage” and the Attorney General would provide further details in this regard during the SC hearing on April 16.
Sources added that Manmohan “appreciated” Italy’s decision to send the marines back to India in line with the commitments made before the SC and in order to enable the judicial process to move forward.