Faced with mounting pressure after applying the stringent SUA Act that carries the death penalty on the two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in 2012, the government has asked the law ministry to review its opinion that the law could be invoked in the case.
The ministry has been asked to consider the fact that the SUA Act was framed to deal with terrorism and piracy and this did not apply to the killing of the fishermen.
Law ministry sources said the Attorney General would be asked to reconsider his opinion in light of this view. “His opinion would be reviewed by the law minister unlike last time when the opinion was cleared by a joint secretary-level officer,” a source said.
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Home ministry officials declined to confirm the legal review but said “the government is still contemplating its future course of action due to international ramifications”.
The MHA last week allowed the marines to be prosecuted under the SUA Act, angering Italy, and even the MEA, as New Delhi had promised Rome the marines would not face death.
If the law ministry reverses its opinion, the MHA can withdraw sanction and try the two under the IPC even though it is not within the mandate of the NIA. The next hearing in the case is set for February 3 and the NIA is expected to file charges after that.