The NIA on Wednesday opposed in a Delhi court the pleas filed by two Italian marines, accused of killing two Indian fishermen off Kerala coast in 2012, seeking exemption from personal appearance on the ground that charge sheet has not been filed in the case.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) told the court that the special court derives its jurisdiction from the order passed by the Supreme Court and the issue that charge sheet has not been filed cannot be a ground to seek exemption from personal appearance.

“This court derives jurisdiction from the Supreme Court’s order...exemption on the ground of not filing of charge sheet is not a ground. We are opposing it,” Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Siddharth Luthra, who appeared for NIA, said.

Italian marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who are accused in the case, were scheduled to appear on Wednesday before the court, which was to hear the arguments on NIA’s plea requesting it to take “appropriate steps” to secure their custody.

The counsel appearing for the marines told Additional Sessions Judge Dharmesh Sharma that there were certain “legal issues”, which need to be addressed before the court decides on the aspect of custody of the accused.

The court, however, allowed the pleas of the marines and exempted them from personal appearance for the day.

“Without going into the merits of the applications (of the marines), accused are exempted from personal appearance for today,” the judge said.

The marines, who were scheduled to file their responses on Wednesday on the NIA’s plea, informed the court that they would file the reply later on as it was under consideration.

The court fixed the matter for January 30 and directed the accused to file their replies within 15 days from Wednesday.

NIA’s plea assumes significance in the wake of the Supreme Court’s direction and the special court will decide on the issue of custody of the marines.

The Supreme Court, on January 18 last year, had held that the marines should be tried by the Centre and had turned down the plea of the Italian government that Indian courts had no jurisdiction in the case.

The apex court had allowed NIA to probe the case against the marines and asked the special court to conduct the trial on a day—to—day basis after the charge sheet is filed.

The case pertains to the killing of two Indian fishermen allegedly by Latorre and Girone on board ‘Enrica Lexie’.

Fearing a pirate attack, the two officers had allegedly fired at the fishermen’s vessel off Kerala coast on February 15, 2012, killing two of them.

The marines were arrested on February 19, 2012.

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