Advocate General says it could not be treated as an ordinary criminal case

The Kerala High Court on Friday orally observed that the alleged acts of the two Italian marines amounted to terrorism as they had allegedly shot dead two fishermen without any provocation.

Justice P.S. Gopinathan made the oral observation when a writ petition filed by the agent of the ship, Enrica Lexie, seeking permission of the court to sail out of the Indian territorial waters came up for hearing.

The court orally observed that from the perspective of the family members of the victims, the acts of the marines were tantamount to terrorism as they had fired upon the boat without firing warning shots or giving any kind of warning signals. The court said the fishermen were fast sleep when the marines fired upon the boat. As per the first information report (FIR), the unarmed fishermen were shot dead in the broad daylight.

The court made the observations when counsel for the ship agent submitted that the acts of the marines could not be termed terrorism as defined under the Suppression of Unlawful Act of Violence against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continued Shelf Act 2001.

Testing firearms

Advocate General K.P. Dandapani said a decision could be taken on the further investigation into the case relating to the killing of the fishermen only if the police received a report from the Forensic Science Laboratory on the firearms used for the commission of the offence. The report was expected soon. If the report pointed out that there was tampering with the firearms seized from the ship, the police would have to conduct further search on the ship.

He submitted that it could not be treated just as an ordinary criminal case. Therefore, if the ship was allowed to sail out of the Indian waters, it would affect the investigation. He said that the government would take steps to expedite the testing of the firearms.

No objection

However, Assistant Solicitor General of India Vanchiyoor Parameswaran Nair appearing for the Union government submitted that the Director General of Shipping did not have any objection to the ship being released on condition that its owner would present the master and the crew before any competent authority or courts in Indian to pursue any further investigation, if required, at the owner's cost. The Centre was of view that the ship could be allowed to leave the Indian territorial waters as all evidence had been taken from the ship during an inquiry ordered by the Director General of Shipping.

Ship agent' stance

Counsel for the ship agent contended that the police, Coast Guard and the Mercantile Marine Department had inspected the vessel and checked all the equipment and records on it. He said that as all the investigations were complete, the ship could be allowed to sail out. He alleged that the government was under pressure to detain the vessel for settling the compensation claims. He said that the ship agent was ready to give an undertaking that the master and other crew would be produced before courts if their presence was required in connection with any cases in future.

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