The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to come out with a clarification regarding the laws under which the two Italian marines will be prosecuted over the deaths of the two fishermen off the Kerala coast in 2012.
A Bench headed by Justice B S Chauhan asked the Centre to give its reply by February 24 when it will hear the case. “We want to know the decision taken by the government to decide the case,” the court said.
Attorney General G E Vahanvati, representing the Centre, submitted that the government was awaiting the Law Ministry’s opinion, which was expected by Friday. Senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Italian government and the marines, said the case had got bogged down despite the apex court order. Hence, his clients should be allowed to return home to Italy until the time the Centre made up its mind on the issue.
Actually, it was on a petition filed by Rome challenging the Centre’s move to invoke the provisions of the anti-terrorism Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation And Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act(SUA) claiming that it went against the order of the apex court-- which allowed proceedings only under the Maritime Zone Act, IPC, CrPC and UNCLOS-- that the Bench issued the order.
The joint petition, filed by Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini along with marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, also sought a directive to the Centre and NIA to expedite the proceedings in the case or discharge the marines.
According to it, invoking SUA “was tantamount to Italy being termed a terrorist state and acts of its organs, which were in repression of piracy, as being deemed as acts of terrorism, which is wholly untenable and unacceptable with regard to the facts and circumstances of the case and in keeping with the comity of nations and international cooperation”.
The two marines, on their part, held that they had apprehended a pirate attack which resulted in the deadly incident.