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Marines case: Clause that provides death penalty likely to be dropped

Senior officials of ministries of Law, Home and External Affairs were present in the meeting.

New Delhi |
Updated: February 5, 2014 4:42:35 am

A day after the Supreme Court gave the Centre one week to sort out the logjam between various ministries on the issue of the plea of two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in February 2012 that they not be tried under the stringent anti-piracy laws which attract the death penalty, Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati on Tuesday suggested a way out.

At a high-level meeting in the evening, Vahanvati is learnt to have suggested that the way out of the logjam could be to remove the clause in the still-to-be-filed chargesheet that provides for death sentence. All the other sections, both under the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation Act (SUA), 2002 and the Indian Penal Code, he has recommended, could the retained in the chargesheet.

Senior officials of the ministries of Law, Home and External Affairs were present in the meeting.

The Italian government has objected to the Centre’s decision to invoke the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation Act (SUA), 2002 against the two marines, with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) adopting contrasting stands on the issue.

While the MHA has already sanctioned the prosecution of the marines under the stringent law that prescribes death penalty, the MEA is in favour of a toning down of the charges on the plea that it could have serious effect on India’s relations with Italy and other European Union nations.

Sources present in the meeting said the possibility of completely withdrawing all charges under the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation Act (SUA), 2002 found no support and the suggestion of the AG was found the most workable.

On Tuesday, the apex court had given the Centre time till next Monday to resolve the contradictory stands of various ministries. The trial of the two marines has not begun due to the logjam.

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