The Supreme Court on Tuesday closed all proceedings pending in the country against two Italian marines accused of shooting two fishermen off the coast of Kerala on February 15, 2012, and directed that the criminal investigation in the matter can resume in Italy.
A bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and M R Shah quashed the FIR registered in connection with the case and discharged the bail bonds of the two marines Master Sergeant Massimiliano Latorre and Sergeant Major Salvatore Girone.
The bench took into account the fact that the Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982, – of which India is a party – had delivered its award on May 21, 2020, under which the Republic of Italy agreed to pay Rs 10 crore in compensation, over and above the ex-gratia amount already paid (Rs 2.17 crore) and also that the tribunal had duly recorded Italy’s commitment that it will resume its criminal investigation into the incident.
The court noted that accordingly, Italy deposited Rs 10 crore with the Union of India — which transferred the same to the top court’s registry — and that the Kerala government as well as the heirs of the deceased fishermen and the boat’s owner had agreed to accept the award.
The Union of India too had accepted the award, the bench said, adding: “when the long-drawn proceedings are coming to an end and we are satisfied that the amount of compensation of Rs 10 crore over and above the ex-gratia amount of compensation…can be said to be a reasonable amount of compensation and can be said to be in the interest of heirs of the deceased”.
The court ruled that it is “of the view that this is a fit case to close all the proceedings in India including criminal proceedings in exercise of powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India”.
The bench ordered that while disbursing the compensation to the legal heirs of the deceased, “their interest is also required to be protected so that the amount…is not frittered away”.
This, it said, can be done by investing the sum in the name of the dependents/heirs of each of the deceased in a Fixed Deposit in a nationalised bank for some time. The heirs can be paid the periodical interest accrued on the deposit.
The court further directed that “now the Republic of Italy shall resume its criminal investigation in the events of 15.02.2012 and…that the Union of India, Republic of Italy and the State of Kerala shall cooperate with each other in pursuit of that investigation”.
It directed that the amount of Rs 10 crore, lying with its Registry, be transferred to the High Court of Kerala. The award is to be divided among the families of both fishermen and the boat’s owner — Rs 4 crore heirs of each of the deceased and Rs 2 crore to the owner of the boat (St. Antony).
The course of the case
February 15, 2012: Two fishermen were shot and killed while they were aboard St. Antony off the coast of Kerala. State police charged Italian Marines Master Sergeant Massimiliano Latorre and Sergeant Major Salvatore Girone, who were aboard the Italian-flagged ship Enrica Lexie, with killing the fishermen.
January 1, 2013: The Supreme Court ruled that the state of Kerala did not have any jurisdiction in the matter and that the Centre has the jurisdiction to investigate.
March 28, 2014: The apex court stayed the proceedings before a special court set up by the Centre following an appeal by the marines filed in the SC.
August 24, 2015: The International Tribunal on Law of the Sea, on the request of Italy, ordered that both Italy and India suspend all court proceedings pending the arbitration
August 26, 2015: Supreme Court stayed the proceedings in India.
March 6, 2017: Supreme Court asked the parties to place on record the Award passed by the Arbitral Tribunal.