SC reserves order on Italy’s plea on marines

New Delhi, April 16 (IANS) The Supreme Court Tuesday reserved its order on the plea by the Italian government challenging a National Investigation Agency (NIA) probe into the killing of two Indians by two Italian marines off the Kerala coast.

The Italian government and the marines also questioned the invoking of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, 2002 in the case but these pleas were also rejected by the court.

Italian marines Chief Master Sergeant Massimilano Latorre and Sergeant Salvatore Girone, on board Italian cargo vessel Enrica Lexie, shot dead two Indian fishermen Feb 15 last year suspecting them to be pirates.

The Italian government told the apex court bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice Anil R. Dave and Justice Vikramajit Sen that invoking of the safe navigation law in a first information report (FIR) registered in New Delhi was contrary to its (apex court’s) earlier decision.

Italy claimed the apex court earlier said that the proceedings over the case pending in a Kerala court be transferred to Delhi. The court will pronounce its order April 22.

The safe navigation law confers on the court jurisdiction if the target of a crime is an Indian vessel or a platform on the Indian continental shelf.

Appearing for the Italian government and its two marines, senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi told the court that even when Kerala Police filed the FIR in the killings they invoked the safe navigation law but later dropped it.

Rohatgi said the apex court by its Jan 18 order, while junking the jurisdiction of Kerala Police to probe the case, said the proceedings before the Kollam court be transferred to Delhi.

Assailing the NIA for invoking the safe navigation law in the case, Rohatgi said that under it death was answered by death.

The senior counsel contested Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati’s submission that probe could not be given to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as it was set up for probe of certain offences and the case of the Italian marines could not be handed over to it.

The CBI was “extremely over-burdened”, Vahanvati said, adding: “We have not done anything that is contrary to the Jan 18 verdict of the court.”

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