The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Monday asked the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to investigate the killing of two Indian fishermen allegedly by two Italian marines off the Kerala coast in February 2012.
The move comes following the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Kerala government has no jurisdiction to prosecute the two.
According to sources in the MHA, the NIA would investigate the case from the very beginning and seek all evidence collected by the Kerala police that conducted initial probe and charged marines Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone with murder.
The premier investigating agency would file a charge sheet in an NIA special court or any other special court that the government would set up after consulting the Supreme Court, they said.
A senior MHA official said the Ministry would suggest to the apex court that instead of setting up another special court, the case could be heard by a special NIA court that already existed here.
In January, the Supreme Court said the marines be shifted here and be under its ‘custody’ till the Centre constituted a special court to hold their trial on day-to-day basis.
“The incident of firing from the Italian vessel on the Indian shipping vessel having occurred within the Contiguous Zone (where the Kerala police has no jurisdiction), the Union of India is entitled to prosecute the two Italian marines under the criminal justice system prevalent in the country… since the Kerala government had no jurisdiction to prosecute the two foreign marines, it had to be done by the Centre in a special court to be set up after consulting the Chief Justice of India,” the Supreme Court had said.
The controversial case had seen India and Italy engage in a major diplomatic tussle last month after Rome refused to send back the marines. They had gone to cast their vote in the national elections after being granted permission by the apex court.
The court allowed them to leave India after Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini gave a written assurance that they would return to face trial in India. But when Italy backtracked on its commitment, the Supreme Court banned Mr. Mancini from leaving India.
Finally, India prevailed as Italy was forced to send back the two murder accused but not before New Delhi assured Rome that the marines, if convicted, can serve their sentence in Italy.
India has also told Italy that they would not face the death penalty and that they would be housed at the Italian embassy here during the trial.