The Supreme Court on Monday asked Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati to make a bona fide attempt to find a solution to the issue of Italian marines, who are accused of killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in February 2012.
“If you are trying to find a solution, we have no objection. But it should be a bona fide attempt to resolve the problem,” a Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and J. Chelameswar told the A-G, who said the government was attempting to find a solution to the problem.
“We are trying to find a solution,” Mr. Vahanvati said. “Some witnesses who had given an undertaking that they will appear [in court] did not come.”
Earlier, senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi, appearing for the marines, submitted that one year had passed since the apex court transferred the Italian marines matter to the Centre, holding that the Kerala government did not have jurisdiction to try them.
However, till now no charge sheet has been filed. The marines, Massimilano Latorre and Sergeant Salvatore Girone, have been in India for close to two years awaiting trial.
The Bench granted time to the A-G and posted the matter for further hearing on February 3.
In their application, the marines said the special court was formed to try the case against them and the National Investigation Agency invoked the provisions of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime navigation and Fixed Platform on Continental Shelf Act, 2002 (SUA Act), attracting the maximum sentence of death penalty.
Invoking provisions of the SUA Act, they said, was contrary to directions of the apex court and was thus unsustainable. They pointed out that the act’s provisions were consciously dropped both in the proceedings before the Kerala court and the apex court.
The marines sought a direction that they be tried only under the Maritime Zone law, the Indian Penal Code, and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and not under the anti-terrorism provisions of the SUA Act. They also sought a direction to be permitted to return to Italy till commencement of the trial.