Italy case closure: SC sets terms
The Supreme Court on Friday declined to permit the Centre to withdraw all prosecution and proceedings against the Italian marines who shot dead two Kerala fishermen in 2012, saying the government of the European country must pay compensation to the victims even if the international tribunal had ruled that India had no jurisdiction to deal with the case.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde made it clear that unless it hears the views of the families of the two fishermen, it would not allow the Centre’s plea, no matter the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague.
“First, let Italy pay them compensation, only then we will allow withdrawal of prosecution. Bring the cheques and the kin of the victims here,” CJI Bobde told solicitor-general Tushar Mehta.
On July 2 this year, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at Hague under the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea ruled that India was entitled to claim compensation but could not prosecute the marines as it had no jurisdiction over them.
Subsequently, the Centre had submitted before the Supreme Court that it would abide by the tribunal’s ruling and wanted to withdraw the cases relating to the marines.
During Friday’s hearing, solicitor-general Mehta, appearing for the Centre, pleaded that the matter be disposed of.
CJI Bobde turned down the request, saying: “We will not pass any orders until the victims’ families are heard. You have not challenged the international tribunal’s award. Now you are saying that the case be taken over by their country.”
“This does not take care of the fixed compensation. There are some legal difficulties involved here. Neither does this take care of the trial,” the bench, also having Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubrmanian, told Mehta.
“There is a criminal charge before a special court (in Kerala) where the victims’ families are also appearing. Now without applying for withdrawal of prosecution there, how can you come here?” Justice Bobde remarked, while pointing out that the Centre had not bothered to implead the families in the apex court while seeking withdrawal of all prosecution against the Italian marines.
“If you had done so, the victims’ families could have opposed that here…. We will not pass an order without the victims’ families being heard,” the CJI said.
“You have accepted the award and you have not questioned it anywhere,” the CJI told Mehta, adding: “Now you are saying the Italian marines should be given their way to go to their country.”
Justice Bobde said that although the international tribunal had ruled that India had no jurisdiction to prosecute the marines, Indian courts could not overlook the fact of the pending criminal trial in Kerala since the victims’ families were yet to get any compensation.
“You (Italy) must pay adequate compensation to the victims,” CJI Bobde observed.
The court will again hear the matter after four weeks.
The two marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, were on board an Italian vessel called Enrica Lexie when they had shot dead the two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast on February 15, 2012, triggering a diplomatic row.
India and Italy had at that time engaged in a legal battle over whether India had the jurisdiction to try the marines. While India had insisted that it had the jurisdiction, Italy had disputed it saying the incident had taken place in international waters, hence only the international tribunal on sea waters alone had the authority to try the dispute.