The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted the Union government and Kerala a week’s time to respond to the petitions filed by the Italian government and two marines for a stay of the trial of the February 15 shooting in which two Indian fishermen were killed off the Kerala coast.

A Bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and J. Chelameswar posted the matter to August 16, when it will consider the plea for stay of the trial.

Earlier, senior counsel Harish Salve said the Kerala High Court order held the marines guilty by using observations like “brutal murder,” “firing was not done in self defence” and the “Italian government did not act in a bona fide manner,” which would prejudice the trial. Moreover, it held that India had the jurisdiction to try the offence, committed beyond 20 nautical miles in the international waters. The High Court also said both the Cr.PC and the Indian Penal Code would apply based on a notification issued by the Centre in 1981. However, a reply issued under the Right to Information Act, revealed that the Centre had categorically said India’s jurisdiction would extend only up to 500 metres in the international waters. As the petitions specifically raised the question of jurisdiction, the trial could not proceed, counsel said.

Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising, appearing for the Centre, strongly opposed stay of the trial, saying India had the jurisdiction to try the offence and the High Court’s observations would in no way prejudice the accused.

Ramesh Babu, appearing for Kerala, pointed out that the trial court was yet to frame charges and it posted the matter for this purpose to August 16.

The Bench was initially keen on staying the trial. But after coming to know that charges were yet to be framed, it gave the Centre and Kerala one more opportunity to file their response.

Assailing the High Court order, the Italian government and the marines in their special leave petitions said: “Since the alleged act was committed outside the territory of India, Indian courts would not have any jurisdiction, which crucial fact was overlooked by the Single Judge.”

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