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Supreme Court to hear govt plea to close Italy marines case tomorrow

Seeking an urgent hearing of its application, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told a bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramaian that the victims’ families have been paid compensation.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: April 8, 2021 3:38:40 am
That SC missed another opportunity to enforce transparency in election funding should worry us allThe Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court will hear on April 9 the government’s plea to close criminal proceedings pending in India against two Italian marines accused of killing two fishermen off the coast of Kerala in 2012.

Seeking an urgent hearing of its application, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told a bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramaian that the victims’ families have been paid compensation.

“They were contacted. They have been paid the due compensation. They are here also,” the SG said.

Initially the court said it would hear the matter next week, but the SG sought an earlier date saying “there is some urgency since it is between the Indian and Italian government”.

In July 2020, the government had told the top court that it had decided to accept the International Arbitral Tribunal’s May 21, 2020 ruling in the case and sought disposal of the proceedings pending before the court in view of the tribunal’s ruling.

The court, however, made it clear that it would not pass any order without hearing the victims’ families, who, it said, should be given adequate compensation.

The tribunal, while stating that India is entitled to compensation for the loss of lives, ruled that the Italian marines could not be tried in India in view of the immunity enjoyed by them.

The ruling also said that in accordance with provisions of the UNCLOS — of which India is a party — and the Rules of Procedure agreed by the parties, the award is final and without appeal and shall be complied with by parties to the dispute. Kerala Police had instituted a case against the marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who were posted on Enrica Lexie, charging them with shooting and killing two Indian fishermen on board their fishing vessel St Antony. The marines had apparently mistaken the fishermen for pirates.

The duo then filed a petition before Kerala High Court, challenging the state’s jurisdiction to investigate the matter.

The high court dismissed their plea, following which they moved the Supreme Court.

The apex court ruled on January 1, 2013 that the state of Kerala did not have any jurisdiction in the matter and that the Centre has the jurisdiction to investigate. The court asked the Centre to set up a special court to try the case.

Subsequently, the marines moved the apex court again, challenging the NIA investigation into the matter. On March 28, 2014, the apex court stayed the proceedings before the special court.

On August 24, 2015, the International Tribunal on Law of the Sea, on the request of Italy, ordered that both Italy and India shall suspend all court proceedings pending the arbitration.

Following this, the Supreme Court on August 26, 2015 stayed the proceedings in India.

On March 6, 2017, the Supreme Court asked the parties to place on record the Award passed by the Arbitral Tribunal.

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