Even though a special court was set up in March to try the case, there is no substantial progress in the probe being conducted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the killing of two fishermen off Kerala on February 15, 2012 involving two Italian marines.
One NIA source told The Hindu: “We’ve received records pertaining to the case and the investigation is in progress. A fresh chargesheet will be filed in the special court.”
Last week, Italian Ambassador to India Daniele Mancini met Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde to ascertain the progress.
Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, a chargesheet has to be filed within 90 days of the registration of a First Information Report, in normal circumstances. But in a case being monitored by the Supreme Court, when there is a specific direction for speedy trial, there is no reason why there should be any inordinate delay in filing a fresh chargesheet when all the material is available before the NIA.
On January 18, the Supreme Court, while quashing charges, held that the State of Kerala had no jurisdiction to investigate the incident; only the Union of India had the jurisdiction. The Supreme Court asked the Centre to set up a Special Court to try the marines, Massimilano Latorre and Salvatore Girone. The case pending in the Kollam sessions court was directed to be transferred to the special court.
The Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court, Patiala Court Complex in New Delhi, was designated as the special court. The NIA filed a fresh FIR in the special court in early April and booked the marines under Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 427 (mischief), with Section 34 (common intent) of the IPC.
The NIA booked them under the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, 2002. This law pertains to cargo ships and maritime navigational facilities whose personnel indulge in offences while at sea. The maximum penalty is death in cases involving death. The NIA in its FIR alleged that two fishermen were shot dead by the marines on board ‘Enrica Lexie.’
On April 26, the Supreme Court told the NIA to proceed. The case diary files were handed over by the Kerala police to an NIA team. A compact disk containing the files was also handed over to it.
The Kollam sessions court transferred the documents and material objects to the Supreme Court. These ranged from the FIR to forensic test reports. Informed sources said that since the original chargesheet was in Malayalam, it had to be translated into English.
Some of the documents in Italian were translated by Rev. Fr. Rolden Jacob, secretary to the Kollam Bishop. The documents translated were those required by the prosecution (Kerala police) as part of pre-trial procedure. The documents translated include the ship’s log, e-mail communications and arms register.
Once the NIA files the fresh chargesheet, the special court will dispose of the matter in accordance with the provisions of the Maritime Zones Act, 1976, the Indian Penal Code, the CrPC and, most importantly, the provisions of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982, where “there is no conflict between the domestic law and UNCLOS 1982.”
The Supreme Court had given the two marines liberty to invoke the provisions of Article 100 of UNCLOS 1982 and raise the question of jurisdiction of the Union of India to investigate the incident and for courts in India to try the accused.
(with inputs from Ignatius Pereira in Kollam)