Notwithstanding NIA slapping murder charge against two Italian marines, India will honour the assurance given to Italy that the duo will not face death penalty for allegedly killing two fishermen off Kerala coast.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) will not press for death sentence against the marines -- Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone -- as per the assurance given by India to Italy even if they are convicted of murder.
“We will honour whatever assurance given to Italy,” Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh told reporters in New Delhi on Monday.
On March 22, after the return of the marines from Italy, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had told Parliament that India has given an assurance to that country that the two will not face death penalty nor will they be liable for arrest if they return by the deadline set by the Supreme Court.
India had given the assurance after clarifications were sought by Italy on death penalty which was a “concern” to that country.
Mr. Khurshid had also said “...According to well-settled Indian jurisprudence, this case would not fall in the category of matters which attract death penalty, that is to say the rarest of rare cases. Therefore, there need not be any apprehension in this regard”.
NIA has submitted an FIR before a Special NIA court booking the marines under sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 427 (mischief) along with section 34 (common intent) of IPC.
NIA has also booked them under the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, 2002. Under this Act, offence of murder is punishable with death sentence.
Official sources said charges slapped in the FIR can be dropped when the charge sheet is filed if no substantive evidence is found against the accused.
The Supreme Court had on January 18 said the marines on board ‘Enrica Lexie’, accused of killing the two fishermen in February last year, be shifted to Delhi and be under the ‘custody’ of the apex court till the Centre constitutes a special court to hold their trial.
The incident had taken place at a distance of about 20.5 nautical miles from the coastline of Kerala and, therefore, it had not occurred within the territorial waters of the coastline of Kerala state but within the Contiguous Zone over which the state police of Kerala ordinarily has no jurisdiction, the court had said.
The Italian government had a fortnight ago reversed its earlier decision not to send back to India the two marines who had gone to Italy to cast votes in elections there.
Italy had reneged on its assurance to the Supreme Court on sending back the marines but later gave in after the Indian government and the apex court took a firm stand with New Delhi warning that ties with Rome could be downgraded.