The Supreme Court today sought responses of the Centre,Kerala government and 2 others on a petition challenging the seizure of Italian vessel Enrica Lexie by the authorities after two marines on board gunned allegedly gunned down two Indian fishermen on February 15.
A bench of justices R M Lodha and H L Gokhale issued notices to the authorities and two relatives of the deceased fishermen even as senior counsel K K Venugopal submitted that due to the seizure,the vessel had incurred a loss of Rs 200 crore as one lakh tonnes of oil was stored in it.
The apex court passed the order on a special leave petition filed by Dolphin Tankers questioning the Kerala High Court’s order staying the release of the vessel.
While issuing notices,Justice Lodha,however,told the counsel that the only issue to be decided in the appeal was whether after the shooting had taken place,the vessel became the property for attachment as provided under CrPC.
It posted the matter for further hearing to April 20.
A division bench of the Kerala High Court had earlier,while setting aside a single judge’s order,stayed till April 2 the release of the vessel detained off Kochi port since
The order was passed by Kerala High Court’s division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice V Chidambaresh on a writ appeal filed by relatives of the two deceased fishermen Valentine Jelestine and Ajesh Pinki.
The single judge justice P S Gopinathan had earlier upheld the plea of ship’s owners Dolphin Tankers and directed the state government to release the ship,subject to their executing a Rs.3-crore bond before the Deputy Conservator of Cochin Port Trust.
The court also directed the shipping company to give an undertaking that the vessel,its master and the crew would appear as and when asked by the competent authorities with three weeks’ prior notice.
Valentine Jalstine and Ajesh Pinki were killed when the marines allegedly fired at their fishing boat off Kollam coast on February 15.
Marines Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Gironi have been arrested and charged with murder and lodged in the central prison in Thiruvananthapuram under judicial remand.
In the SLP before the apex court,the vessel owners said the Kerala High Court’s order raised a substantial question of law as to whether the ship could be deemed a stolen property or a property found under suspicious circumstances in an offence as stipulated under Section 102(1) of the CrPC.
It said the writ petition filed by the relatives of the deceased fishermen could not have been entertained by the High Court as the former had already filed an “admiralty suit” before the High Court which had ordered release of the vessel on depositing an amount of Rs one crore.
In the High Court,the owners had argued they could not take responsibility of the marines as they were not part of the ship’s crew and they were deputed by the Italian navy for security.