Italy’s decision to send back the marines has been welcomed by various sections of people in Kerala, off whose coast they killed two fishermen on February 15 last year.

Italy’s decision to send back the marines has been welcomed by various sections of people in Kerala, off whose coast they killed two fishermen on February 15 last year.

Dora, wife of Valentine, one of the fishermen killed, was very happy with the development. The marines, Massimilano Lattore and Salvatore Girone, must stand trial in India, she said, adding that she expected them to be convicted. “I leave everything to God,” the young woman, a fervent Catholic who had her schooling but nothing more by way of formal education, told The Hindu on Friday.

However, while welcoming the move, the former Minister and legislator from Kollam, P.K. Gurudasan, said the decision appeared part of a deal struck between the Indian and Italian governments rather than a step meant to comply with the Supreme Court’s directions. It was on the basis of some assurances by the Union government that the marines were sent back. “This is tantamount to infringement of the Supreme Court’s powers.”

Mr. Gurudasan insisted that the Kerala government file a review petition against the Supreme Court’s ruling that Kerala had no jurisdiction in the case. He said the special court to try the case should be set up in Kerala.

T. Peter, secretary of the National Fishworkers’ Forum, said the Indian government’s assurance that the marines would not be given capital punishment was a folly. A court of law had to decide on the question. If the government was against the imposition of the death sentence, such a stand should be applied consistently and not be restricted to the case of the two marines.

Kerala State Fishworkers’ Federation general secretary V.V. Saseendran said that though he welcomed Rome’s decision, he could not endorse the assurance that appeared to have been given by the Union government.

According to External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, the assurance was given to Italy because it was not the “rarest of rare” case for which the death sentence could be awarded. The court, and not a Union Minister or any other representative of the executive arm of the government, must decide whether or not it was such a case, Mr. Saseendran said.

Mr. Khurshid’s statement constituted a challenge to the Indian judiciary, he said. It amounted to the government interfering in the judicial process. This created doubts in the minds of the fishing community whether justice would be done in this case.

H. Basilal, president of the Vaddy-Tangasseri Fishermen Society in Kollam, said Rome reversed its March 11 decision not to send the marines back to India because of the Supreme Court’s strong stand and the nationwide protests. Else, Italy would have been blacklisted globally.

G. Mohanraj, who was the official special public prosecutor in the case when it was pending before the Kollam District and Sessions Court, said the decision brought him relief. The marines should trust the impartiality and credibility of the Indian judicial system. “It is also clear that they will be entitled to all fundamental rights under Indian law during trial.”

At the bustling fishing harbour of Neendakara near here, from where the boat on which the two fishermen had put out to sea, the average fisherman seemed oblivious of, or unconcerned with, the return of the marines. Many were at work on this hot afternoon, mending their nets in the shade of fishing boats as usual, getting set for another day’s toil out in the sea for livelihood.

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