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Envoy free, Swamy shown his place

Mancini (left), Swamy

New Delhi, April 2: The Supreme Court today lifted its three-week order banning Italy’s ambassador Daniele Mancini from leaving the country but not before an angry Chief Justice warned Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy to mind his words.

The former Union minister had spoken of a “collusion” and was forced to clarify what he meant before he left in a huff.

The three-judge bench headed by CJI Altamas Kabir “rescinded” the court’s March 14 restraining order on the envoy, less than a fortnight after Rome sent back two marines to face trial over the deaths of two Indian fishermen last year.

The marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who said they had mistaken the fishermen for pirates, returned before the March 22 deadline as Italy reversed a previous decision not to send them back, prompting a now-defused diplomatic stand-off and the court’s restraining order.

“Since the petitioners… have returned within the stipulated time, the undertaking given by the ambassador Shri Daniele Mancini has been satisfied…. The interim order passed on March 14 is rescinded,” the court said.

Mancini had in a sworn affidavit said he would personally undertake responsibility for the return of the marines by March 22.

The bench directed attorney-general G.E. Vahanvati to file an affidavit within a week on the steps the Centre had taken since the court’s January 18 order to set up a special court to try the marines, who had been allowed to go home to vote.

“What about the special court? Why is the matter being delayed. We have asked you to set up the court for expeditious trial. After all, they (the marines) are persons from outside. They can’t be kept here for no rhyme or reason,” Justice Kabir said.

Earlier in the day, when the matter came up, the attorney-general told the court nothing survived in the case as Italy had complied with its February 22 undertaking to send the marines back.

Even as the bench was mulling its next move, Swamy, who was in the first row, rose to remind the court about a contempt application he had earlier moved against the ambassador.

“Who are you?” the Chief Justice asked Swamy, who said he had moved the contempt application.

“I am asking you, who are you?” the judge responded. “I am sorry you are not an advocate. You have no right to appear. You have no right to argue. What will happen if any person on the road comes and says I want to argue. You might have done it earlier, but we will not allow you.”

Before Swamy could respond, Justice Kabir asked him why he was sitting in the front row. “You have no right to occupy the first row. Those chairs are meant for lawyers, not for litigants. You have no right to sit there.”

Swamy said if the bench felt he had no right to be in the court, he was willing to leave. “I am not saying you can’t come to the court, but you have no right to occupy these chairs,” Justice Kabir said, pointing to the front row.

Swamy then said: “There is a collusion here.”

“Be careful about what you are saying,” Justice Kabir said. “What do you mean by collusion?”

Swamy clarified that he meant there was “some collusion outside. They (the Centre) had given an undertaking to Italy that they (the marines) will not be awarded the death sentence”. He then walked out.