Criticised over its contradictory stand, the NDA government Monday conceded before the Supreme Court that it does not differentiate between French and Italian nationals vis-a-vis their rights, and that it wants to maintain good relations with both countries.
The apex court had earlier questioned the Centre as to why it allowed two Italian marines, accused of shooting two Kerala fishermen, to be released when it has now opposed the release of a French woman from jail despite an undertaking by the French Embassy.
“Our stand is neutral. We don’t differentiate between countries. We have equal respect for both countries…,” Additional Solicitor General P S Patwalia, appearing for the government, informed the bench led by Justice Kurian Joseph.
Patwalia added that the government was neither opposing nor supporting the request by the French government to release the woman, who has been under detention since February, and that it is for the top court to pass appropriate orders.
“We have decided to take a neutral stand in the matter. I will argue only on law. Let the court decide whether she should be granted the relief (of being released from prison) or not. We would want to argue the matter,” added the law officer.
The court said it was also of the view that the matter should be finally heard since the French national has been in custody for a long time. It gave the liberty to her counsel to apprise a city court about pendency of the matter in the apex court, so that the extradition proceedings can be put off till its decision. The court will hear the final arguments on November 24.