Make known your stand on Italy’s assurance of marines returning to India, High Court tells Centre

The Kerala High Court on Tuesday asked the Union government to inform it by Wednesday of its stand on the undertaking given by the Italian Consul-General that Rome would ensure the return of the two marines, accused of killing two Indian fishermen, if they were allowed to visit their homes for Christmas.

Justice P. Bhavadasan issued the directive while hearing a petition filed by marines Massimilano Lattore and Salvatore Girone, who wanted the court to relax bail conditions and allow them to go to Italy. In fact, their families planned a special mass for the last two weeks of December.

Director-General of Prosecution T. Asaf Ali, however, opposed the bail plea contending that the government could not accept the undertaking, the bona fides and motives of which were suspect. If the marines were allowed to leave the country, their presence during the trial could not be ensured. A case had already been registered in Italy for murdering the fishermen. Once the accused were allowed to fly out, Italy would later contend that the petitioners could not be produced in the Indian court as they were wanted in the case registered in that country. Thus, the trial would be “torpedoed”.

When the court asked him whether the Kerala government accepted the authority of the Consul-General to give an undertaking, Mr. Ali said the DGP, as a prosecuting agency, was keen on the presence of the accused, very essential as the case was ripe for trial. It was not the Consul-General’s authority but the motive of the undertaking that was suspect.

‘Why not bring families here’?

If the petitioners wanted to celebrate Christmas with their family members, the Italian government could very well bring them here, Mr. Ali said.

Besides, if the attempt of the Italian government was bona fide, it could use diplomatic channels with the Centre for taking the accused home, he said.

At one point, the court orally observed that it was “seeing for the first time [that] so much blood is being shed for the victims.”

P. Vijayabhanu, counsel for the petitioners, said there was no need for suspicion as it was the Italian government, a sovereign nation, which was giving the undertaking.

He pointed out that the Italian Ambassador to India would also be present in the court to give an assurance, if required.

The judge asked counsel why the Italian government could not get in touch with the Government of India on the issue.

Assistant Solicitor-General of India Vanchinyur Parameswaran Nair said he needed time to take instructions from the Government of India to submit its view.

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