The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted the Centre one more opportunity to spell out its stand on the issue raised by?Italian?marines?whether they should be tried under the anti-piracy laws or not.

A Bench of Justice B. S. Chauhan and M.Y. Eqbal asked the Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati to give it in writing the Centre’s stand by February 24 when it will hear the case again. Earlier, Mr. Vahanvati informed the court that the government was awaiting the Law Ministry’s opinion (on whether the anti-piracy law could be deleted altogether) which might come on Friday.

In the last hearing on February 10 Mr. Vahanvati informed the court that the clause relating to death penalty in the anti piracy law had been deleted and only a punishment of maximum of 10 year imprisonment would be attracted for the offence.

Justice Chauhan asked the AG: “Under the IPC Section 302 (murder) a trial court can award death sentence, what if death penalty is awarded to the accused under the IPC.” The AG replied “death sentence is awarded only in rarest of rare cases and this is not one of the rarest of rare cases warranting death penalty.”??

Senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi argued that the?Italian?government and the?marines?were challenging invoking of the anti-terrorism law SUA (Suppression of Unlawful Acts against safety of Maritime Navigation And Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf) Act, saying it was against the order of the apex court which allowed proceedings only under the Maritime Zone Act, IPC, Cr.P.C and UNCLOS. It was in this context the AG said the opinion of the Law Ministry was sought whether the anti-piracy law in its entirety could be deleted.

On Tuesday Mr. Rohatgi, submitted that the Centre had not been able to move in the case despite the apex court's order and urged that his clients be allowed to go back to their country till Centre took a decision. The Bench posted the case for further hearing on February 24.

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