The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Union government, the Kerala Police, the Cochin Port Trust and others on a special leave petition from Italian ship “Enrica Lexie” and its owners Dolphin Tanker Srl that challenged the order of a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court setting aside a single judge's order allowing the ship to leave the port.

The vessel was detained following the killing of two fishermen by two Italian marines on board on February 15.

The single judge had directed the police to permit the ship to continue its voyage on furnishing a bond for Rs.3 crore and an undertaking before the Deputy Conservator, Cochin Port Trust, that the vessel and its master and crew would be produced as and when required by the authorities concerned.

The Division Bench stayed that order acting on appeals filed by a legal heir of one of the killed fishermen.

The special leave petition sought the quashing of the order and an interim stay on its operation.

A Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justices R.M. Lodha and H.L. Gokhale issued notice after hearing senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing on behalf of the vessel, and posted the matter for further hearing on April 20.

Mr. Venugopal argued that the High Court ought not to have entertained the writ petition as it was not maintainable. He said the persons responsible for the death of the fishermen had been arrested and the firearms used were seized from the ship.

He said the forensic report clearly stated that the ship was not involved in any way in the incident. It was carrying over one lakh tonnes of oil and by its detention, the vessel was losing about Rs.200 crore. The police, the Mercantile Marine Department, the Cochin Port Trust, the Kerala government, and the Union Ministry of Shipping were for allowing the ship to continue its voyage, but the petitioner, who had no locus standi, filed the petition and the Division Bench of the High Court entertained it and passed the orders.

Justice Lodha told counsel that once the seizure report was submitted, only the magistrate concerned could consider the issue under Section 102 (3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

When counsel said the magistrate could not decide the issue, Justice Lodha said the court could examine the question, “If a shooting takes place from the top of a house, whether the house becomes a property for attachment.”

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