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Updated: February 25, 2014 04:15 IST

Marines not to be prosecuted under anti-piracy law

J. Venkatesan
Comment (17)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
Italian marines Massimiliano Latorre (right) and Salvatore Girone in Kochi. The government has told the Supreme Court that it will not use a severe anti-piracy law when it tries two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen in 2012. File photo
Italian marines Massimiliano Latorre (right) and Salvatore Girone in Kochi. The government has told the Supreme Court that it will not use a severe anti-piracy law when it tries two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen in 2012. File photo

The Centre on Monday informed the Supreme Court that the two Italian marines would not be tried under the provisions of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act that attracts the death penalty as maximum punishment.

A Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and J. Chelameswar recorded the statement to this effect from Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati. It was the A-G who filed a brief affidavit of the Home Ministry saying that the Law Ministry had opined that the provisions of the anti-piracy law were not applicable in this case.

Senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for marines Massimilano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, said his clients had been in India awaiting trial for nearly two years. They are accused of killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in February 2012.

He pointed out that sanction for the prosecution was given under the anti-piracy law and this should be modified. The A-G said the sanction order would be modified accordingly and this was stated in the affidavit.

The A-G said the question which agency should investigate the matter had been settled by a three-judge Bench of the apex court on April 26, 2013.

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Mr Raja

You write: < .. When 3 ordinary persons are killed, and the assassins happen to be
Caucasians, the government is ... promising that they will not be given death
penalty .. >

You forget that we are not dealing with a case of pre-meditated murder. The
Italian Marines did not set sail from Italy with the intent to kill the fishermen. Their
actions can only be termed as <manslaughter>. Yes, they need to pay for said
(voluntary ?) manslaughter but the penalty cannot and must not be capital

Indeed, the Italian government agreed to let the Marines come back to India to
face trial only after guarantees were given by the Indian government that the death
penalty would not be sought. India cannot renege on that promise. This has
nothing to do with their being Caucasians.

A larger issue that India faces is that as long as the death penalty remains on the
statute books, many countries may be unwilling to extradite criminals to India.

from:  V.Suresh
Posted on: Feb 25, 2014 at 14:00 IST

The first sentence of the act reads "An Act to constitute an investigation agency at the national level to investigate and prosecute offences
affecting the sovereignty, security and integrity of India, security of State, friendly relations with foreign
States and offences under Acts enacted to implement international treaties, agreements, conventions and
resolutions of the United Nations, its agencies and other international organisations and for matters
connected therewith or incidental thereto.
BE it enacted by Parliament in the Fifty-ninth Year of the Republic of India ". It is an act enacted by Parliament. How it can be modified by a court. It has to be modified by Parliament only or the government should get an ordinance approved by the President. And is it morally right for a government which is living on borrowed time to enact an ordinance ?

from:  vkguptan
Posted on: Feb 25, 2014 at 02:46 IST

The Italian marines are not pirates and were on duty against pirates. It is obviously a mistake they have committed due to communication problems. It is not understandable why we Indians are after their blood . This case is more like a motor car accident death with no intention of the marines to kill the fisherman . By keeping them in Indian Jail India only will incur lot of expense for no purpose . The best course would be to take proper compensation for the life of fisherman from Italian Govt and hand over the Marines to Italian Govt to deal as per their law.

from:  sbalaraman
Posted on: Feb 25, 2014 at 01:54 IST

Is it an ancient primitive society where you give death penalty for
errors ?

from:  atanu nath
Posted on: Feb 25, 2014 at 01:36 IST

Some needed course correction by the Indian authorities. The crime is that two Italian soldiers on board a private shipping vessel killed two innocent Indian civilians.

India was well within its right to bring the Italian ship in after the event occurred (by deceit or not). I do not see anything wrong with that, as it is the duty of the government to bring the guilty to justice.

However, Indian authorities lost their moral edge due to the delays and legal missteps that took place, giving Italians a plank to have their voices heard. Hence, this course correction was much needed and I am glad it came at the right time.

from:  Raam Krishna
Posted on: Feb 24, 2014 at 22:29 IST

Whatever may the Government tell the court it is for the latter to decide what punishment should be given. Apparently they may try to protect the Italians because they belong to Sonia's country. What about the Rajiv killers? The Government wants to give maximum punishment . Why this double standard? How can you call the Marines action as anti piracy?. They have got binoculars and could have seen that the occupants are harmless fishermen. The marines and the captain are well educated

from:  ramu
Posted on: Feb 24, 2014 at 22:25 IST

It is back to square one. It looks that the Indian holiday for the Romans will be continuing unless their bail terms are relaxed and allowed to go home.

from:  vkguptan
Posted on: Feb 24, 2014 at 19:22 IST

Folks...i support the Indian government here in reducing the charges here....We cannot apply the same yardstick with all crimes...the Italian marines committed this mistake due to their ignorance....and Italian marines are no terrorists like other terrorists like Rajiv Convicts and also Afzal guru convicted for Parliament attacks...charging the marines so that they get a life term is fair decision by Indian government i beleive

from:  Chakradhar
Posted on: Feb 24, 2014 at 18:52 IST

I totally agree with Mr.Arithras views. Most of the readers have never understood that Indian Navy has on contrary violated maritime rules, by setting up a trap for the cargo vessel carrying Italian marines. The vessel was in international waters, when the unfortunate incident happened. Many questions remain unanswered by India such as:

1. Why the Indian coast is so unsafe and porous, that fishermen taken all the liberty to misuse and create havoc in navigation waters?
2.Why the coast guard and Indian Navy are sitting ducks, when our coastal waters are rife with smuggling (gulf of Kutch, Andaman sea, Gulf of Mannar etc)?
3.Why the sudden act of heroism by Indian Navy, when cargo vessels in Indian waters and ports are under constant threat by straying fishing boats and robbing the vessels when they are anchored in mooring or at port?
4.Chennai and Calcutta remain notorious for looting the ship's nylon ropes, equipment etc by local fishermen. The police records speak volumes on this.

from:  Prasan
Posted on: Feb 24, 2014 at 18:10 IST

There is no surprise in this case, so called intellectuals who are at
the highest office protecting the interest of their master not the
constitution nor the people. This has been proved in the recent
Lokashaba incident. The marines are happily staying in their country
embassy as guests not in the jail and soon will leave the country
without any punishment.

from:  venkey
Posted on: Feb 24, 2014 at 17:28 IST

God knows from where such idiotic comments emanate. These people were engaged in anti-piracy efforts. To charge them with piracy (that is under anti-piracy laws) would be idiotic and could potentially open a can of worms. We must remember many of our troops are engaged in peace-keeping operations around the world. And this is without any reference to the punishment available under the law. The principle itself is absurd. Remember the 26/11 terrorists too came to our shores in rickety, extremely common-looking fishing boats, it isn't as if they came in battleships bearing their flag.
Now as to the possibility of the death penalty, it is a trickier case but in the national interest it might be expedient to give the marines and thereby Italy (and the EU which it seems is batting for the Italian side) some leeway.

from:  Aritra Gupta
Posted on: Feb 24, 2014 at 17:14 IST

Fair enough. It seems too much to put them on death penalty for an error of judgement and the families of the killed fishermen also have come to terms with seeking jail time. Hopefully the verdict can now be expedited.

from:  Sriram Chadalavada
Posted on: Feb 24, 2014 at 16:53 IST

When one Ex-Prime Minister was assassinated, 26 persons were sent to

When 3 ordinary persons are killed, and the assassins happen to be
Caucasians, the government is begging that they will be tried with soft
gloves and promising that they will not be given death penalty. So, it
is not the Law which decides the punishment, but the establishment.

Long Live Indian Establishment, cruel to the ordinary and begging to
the mighty ones.

from:  Raja
Posted on: Feb 24, 2014 at 16:44 IST

From the beginning, the Italians (including the captain of the attacking ship) have shown extraordinary contempt towards India. Their onging drama shows nothing short of racial prejudice that permeates much of the southern Europe. Although the delay in this case had been caused by the Italians, due to the unavailability of (Italian) witnesses, the Italian govt has repeatedly been portraying as evidence of the incompetence of India.

from:  Sanjay
Posted on: Feb 24, 2014 at 16:43 IST

Shame on The Government...

from:  sudarshan
Posted on: Feb 24, 2014 at 16:32 IST

Yes correct.... we should not impose tough laws on those marines. Maximum relaxation should be granted to them because they are Europeans. Their lives are more important than ours. Let us pity on those poor Indian souls who left us due to these two naughty marines but they are Europeans!

from:  Mohd. Ayoob
Posted on: Feb 24, 2014 at 16:23 IST

In laws after all.. how can we take action against them?

from:  Rajarshi
Posted on: Feb 24, 2014 at 15:55 IST
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