‘No formal decision on agency to probe Italian marines case’

New Delhi, April 3 (IANS) The external affairs ministry Wednesday said that “no formal decision has been taken” on which agency will be handed over the probe into the killing of two Indian fishermen allegedly by two Italian marines, amid reports that the National Investigation Agency has got the nod to do so.

“A decision has not been taken on an investigation agency to conduct the probe no formal decision has been taken,” said external affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin to a media query.

His statement comes two days after home ministry sources said the NIA has been asked to probe the killing of two Indian fishermen allegedly by Italian marines Massimilano Latorre and Salvatore Girone off the Kerala coast last year.

Home ministry sources had said that NIA would probe the case afresh and file the charge sheet in an NIA special court or any other special court set up by the government in consultation with the Supreme Court.

The external affairs ministry spokesperson also said that the Supreme Court had allowed time till April 16 to respond to setting up a special court to try the case.

He said that time was being taken to set up a special court to “ensure that we follow a very rigorous process, a very well thought out process that will ensure it is legally viable and withstands judicial scrutiny”.

The Supreme Court had ruled in January that the Kerala government had no independent jurisdiction to try two Italian marines. It had asked the central government, in consultation with the chief justice, to set up a special court to hold the trial.

The Italian government will be free to raise the question of jurisdiction.

If the issue is raised, the special court will decide the question whether the Indian or the Italian government has the jurisdiction to conduct the trial of the two marines under the maritime law.

The two Italian marines, on board the Italian cargo vessel Enrica Lexie, had allegedly shot dead two Indian fishermen Feb 15 last year suspecting them to be pirates.

The Italian government had last month reversed its earlier decision not to send back the two marines, who had gone to Italy to cast votes in elections.

The spokesperson also said that Indian ambassador-designate Basant Gupta, whose posting was put on hold following the diplomatic stand-off between the two countries, was likely to take up his assignment later this month.

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