In a setback to efforts by Italy to secure release of its two marines charged with murder of two Indian fishermen,the Kerala High Court today turned down its plea for quashing an FIR against them,holding that they were liable to penal jurisdiction of Indian courts.
Terming the killing of fishermen by the marines on board ‘Enrica Lexie’ in February off Kerala coast as “brutal” and “cruel”,Justice P S Gopinathan said the accused were not entitled to sovereign immunity and also imposed a cost of Rs one lakh on them.
The shooting was ‘cruel’ and ‘brutal’ and hence it can be inferred that they (marines) did so on their own. “Shooting cannot be said to be an act of sovereign function and the marines are not entitled to sovereign immunity,” it said.
Dismissing the petition filed by Italian Consul General in Mumbai Giampalo Cuttilo and marines — Latore Massimilliano and Salvatore Girone,Justice Gopinathan imposed a cost of Rs one lakh on the two accused,payable within two weeks.
The petitioners,who had also sought a stay on all further proceedings in the case pending before a Kollam court,contended that Kerala Police had no authority to conduct the probe and courts in India have no jurisdiction as the incident occurred beyond the Indian territorial waters.
Rejecting the contention,the court said Kerala police has jurisdiction to investigate the case and courts have the jurisdiction to try the case and it was not an invasion.
“The marines are liable to the penal jurisdiction of Indian courts and police was right in registering a case and proceeding with investigation irrespective of the fact that they were on board a foreign vessel,” the court held.
The High Court made it clear that the trial court shall consider the contentions of the marines untrammelled by the observations in its judgement.