Probe into killing of fishermen yet to be over

The government on Thursday submitted before the Kerala High Court that the Italian ship Enrica Lexie should not be allowed to leave the Indian territorial waters as the investigation into the case relating to the killing of two fishermen by Italian marines was yet to be completed.

In a statement filed in response to a writ petition filed by the agent of the ship seeking permission to sail out of the Indian territorial waters, the State government said the forensic report revealed that there had been tampering with the firearms used for the commission of the offence.

Therefore, further investigation would have to be conducted inside the vessel for seizing “material objects and evidence”, for which, the presence of the ship off Kochi was required. A report from the forensic laboratory was expected in 14 days and thereafter, a decision could be taken on the course of further investigation.

Besides, the implication of the Master of the ship in the case would depend on the material collected during further investigation. At present, the investigation had not been concluded , the government said. The State government also pointed out that the investigation was delayed for more than 10 days when the investigation officers were refused entry into the ship.

Arguments

Meanwhile, arguments on a writ petition filed by Italy seeking to quash the criminal case registered against the two marines resumed before the court of Justice P.S. Gopinathan.

While Advocate-General K.P. Dandapani contended that the State government had absolute jurisdiction to register the case under various laws including the Suppression of Unlawful Act of Violence against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act 2001, counsel for Italy pointed out that action under the SUV Act could be taken only against terrorists or pirates.

Counsel also argued that even under the SUV Act, the State government had no jurisdiction to lodge a first information report.

In fact, the Central government had only been empowered to register any case under the Act.

Assistant Solicitor-General Vanchiyoor Parameswaran Nair, appearing for the Centre, supported the action of the State government and submitted that the contention that the State had no jurisdiction to register a case was untenable.

The Advocate-General also submitted before the court that during the course of investigation, the offence under the SUV Act would be incorporated in the FIR. In fact, the investigation was still on. The court adjourned to March 19 for hearing further arguments.

The court also adjourned the hearing on a petition for a directive to take action against the Master of the Italian ship and the naval marines under the Admiralty Offences (Colonial) Act, 1849, and the SUA Act, 2001. In fact, no action had been taken against the Master of the vessel or the owner, the two sisters of a fisherman killed by the marines complained in their petition.