The two Italian marines facing trial for allegedly killing two fishermen off Kerala coast will be charged under the stringent SUA (Suppression of Unlawful Acts against safety of Maritime Navigation And Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf) Act as the Home Ministry has granted prosecution sanction to the NIA. The law only has provision for death penalty but after a sovereign assurance by the government, the NIA will inform the court while filing the chargesheet and not plead for the maximum punishment after the trial, said an official.
The development comes close on the heels of the government informing the Supreme Court that it is trying to resolve all disputes with Italy arising out of invoking the anti-terrorism law against the marines.
Appearing before a Bench headed by Justice B S Chauhan, Attorney General G E Vahanvati submitted that there has been a delay in initiating trial against the marines as the witnesses who were accompanying them on the ship were not coming to India to depose despite giving an undertaking.
The AG sought time to reply to the contention raised by the Italian government which submitted that invocation of the anti-terrorism law against the marines “would tantamount to the republic of Italy being termed a terrorist state”. The Bench then adjourned the case to February 3 and observed that the Centre would make bona fide efforts to resolve the issue.
The Bench was hearing a petition filed by the Italian government challenging the invoking of SUA Act, saying it is against the order of the apex court which allowed proceedings only under the Maritime Zone Act, IPC, CrPC and UNCLOS.
The NIA, however, said it will wait for the Supreme Court verdict to file a chargesheet.
Marines Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre have been under detention in India for the past two years. The court is likely to hear the matter again on February 3.