SC withdraws order on Italian envoy, seeks status of special court

New Delhi, April 2 (IANS) The Supreme Court Tuesday withdrew its March 14 and March 18 restraining order that directed the government to ensure that Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini did not leave India.

The apex court had passed the order after the Italian government went back on its solemn promise to send back two of its marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, to face trial for killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast Feb 15 last year after mistaking them for pirates.

Referring to its interim order of March 14 and March 18 restraining the Italian envoy from leaving the country, the bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice Anil R.Dave and Justice Vikramajit Sen said: “Since petitioner two and three (two Italian marines) have returned within the stipulated time, the undertaking given by Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini has been satisfied.

“Accordingly we need not take further notice of the Note Verbale and the interim order passed stands rescinded.”

The Italian embassy by its March 15 ‘note verbale’ to the India’s external affairs ministry had pointed to the obligation of the host country (India) to protect the diplomatic agent under the Vienna Convention.

Vacating the restraint order, the court also enquired from Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati as to what steps the government has taken to set up a special fast track court to try the two marines in pursuance of its Jan 18 order.

“The question is whether we have to pass an order modifying our earlier order (restraining Mancini from leaving the country),” Chief Justice Kabir observed as Vahanvati mentioned the developments that had taken place since the court’s March 18 order.

“What about the special court. Why matter is being delayed. We passed the order so that matter is heard expeditiously. After all they (two marines) are from outside. They can’t be kept for no rhyme and reason.”

The court adjourned the matter till April 16 to enable Vahanvati to file an affidavit giving details of steps taken for setting up the special court.

Referring to some media reports, senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Italian government, told the court that the trial of the case was being entrusted to a chief judicial magistrate (CJM) court and that the investigation into it was handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Rohatgi said that neither the NIA nor the CJM court have the jurisdiction to handle the case. However, Vahanvati pleaded with the court not to take cognizance of the media reports.

In its Jan 18 order, the court held that it was only the union of India that had the jurisdiction to try the two marines and told the central government to set up a special court in consultation with the chief justice to hold the trial.

Earlier in the course of the hearing, the court questioned the locus standi of the Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy’s to move the contempt plea, saying that it was not open to all to come to the apex court and argue.

“Be careful for what you are saying. What do you mean by collusion?” Chief Justice Kabir cautioned Swamy as he claimed there seemed “to be some collusion here”.

Gauging the mood of the court, Swamy said: “When I say collusion, this means collusion outside that there would be no death sentence.”

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