The Supreme Court on Monday said it would decide on February 18 whether two Italian marines, accused of killing of two Indian fishermen in 2012, should be tried under the anti-piracy laws.

A Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan, J. Chelameswar and M.Y. Eqbal posted the matter for final hearing when senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi, appearing for the marines, said it was more than a year since the court held that the Kerala government had no jurisdiction to try the Italians.

Earlier, Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati submitted that the clause relating to the death penalty had been deleted from the anti-piracy law and the offence would attract a maximum punishment of 10 years imprisonment.

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

Mr. Rohatgi said 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. They claimed it was against the order of the apex court that allowed proceedings only under the Maritime Zone Act, IPC, Cr.P.C and UNCLOS, Mr. Rohtgi said.

The AG intervened and said, “They have killed two persons. Are they suggesting that they should not be prosecuted, but be awarded the Padma Bhushan or the Padma Vibhushan?” Mr. Rohatgi said Massimilano Latorre and Sergeant Salvatore Girone should be allowed to return home on some undertaking till the issue was resolved.

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