Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti called up his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on Tuesday for the second time in recent times, but received no firm assurance that the death penalty would not be imposed on two marines detained for killing two Kerala fishermen in February last year.
Dr. Singh, according to sources, was, however, more forthcoming on other details of the case, including the setting up of a special court. He appreciated Italy’s decision to send back the marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone to India in line with the commitments made before the Supreme Court. This step by Italy, he said, would enable the judicial process to move forward.
Dr. Singh recalled the recent conversation between External Affairs Minister Salman Khursheed and Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura. The Attorney-General would provide further details on special court in the Supreme Court on April 16.
The Prime Minister said that in view of pending investigations, it would be premature to take a view on specific aspects. This, the sources said, was a reference to Italian fears over the prosecution demanding death penalty to the marines.
Official sources said the Prime Minister recalled the clarifications provided by the External Affairs Ministry to Rome in its earlier communication prior to the return of the marines.
(Sources in the government said the National Investigation Agency (NIA) might drop certain provisions in the charge sheet to ensure that the death sentence was not awarded to the marines. “The NIA will not press for death sentence as per the assurance given by India to Italy even if they are convicted of murder,” a senior Home Ministry official said.)
The NIA has already booked the marines under the IPC Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 427 (mischief) and 34 (common intent). They were also charged under the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, 2002 that entails death sentence.
While thanking Dr. Singh for the update, Mr. Monti also conveyed his condolences on the death of five Indian peacekeepers in South Sudan.