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Updated: March 15, 2013 03:18 IST

Supreme Court issues notice to Italian envoy, marines

J. Venkatesan
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A spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs said the “entire expanse of our interaction” with Italy was being reviewed and all aspects carefully examined following its refusal to send back two marines to face trial in India. File photo
The Hindu
A spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs said the “entire expanse of our interaction” with Italy was being reviewed and all aspects carefully examined following its refusal to send back two marines to face trial in India. File photo

Vahanvati tells Bench note verbale is a breach of undertaking given to court

The Supreme Court on Thursday took a serious view of Italy’s breach of undertaking and restrained Ambassador Daniele Mancini from leaving the country without its permission.

A Bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justices Anil R. Dave and Vikramajit Sen issued notice to the Ambassador and two marines returnable on March 18 on an application from the Union of India bringing on record the note verbale sent by Italy informing it that the marines would not be sent back to India to face trial for the shooting incident off the Kerala coast in which two fishermen were killed in February 2012.

The Bench said if notice was not served on the marines, it would then be served through Mr. Mancini.

On behalf of his country, the Ambassador filed an undertaking in the court on February 9 that he would be fully responsible for the return of the marines. They were allowed to go to participate in the elections held on February 24 and 25. He had said that all conditions imposed by the court would be complied with.

The undertaking said: “the applicants No. 1 and 2 [marines] to travel to Italy will be constantly under the care, custody, control, supervision and guardian of the applicants [Ambassador] so as to ensure their production on or before the date prescribed by this court before the Commissioner of Police, New Delhi.”

On Thursday, Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati told the Bench that the note verbale was a breach of the undertaking given to the highest court of the land and the government was extremely concerned about it.

In its application, the Centre said the Government of India had replied to the note verbale rejecting the position adopted by Italy and reiterating that the accused marines were permitted by the Supreme Court only to travel to Italy, remain there and thereafter return to India within the said time under the care, supervision and control of the Italian government. “Therefore, the failure of the accused marines to return to India would be a breach of the sovereign undertaking given by the Republic of Italy to the Supreme Court of India. It was affirmed that the Republic of Italy was obliged to honour the sovereign undertaking given to the Supreme Court and, therefore, it had to ensure the return of the marines to India to face legal proceedings in India within the period stipulated by the order of the Supreme Court.”

The Bench directed that the matter be listed for further hearing on March 18.

When Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy told the court that he had filed a contempt petition, the Chief Justice said it would be taken up in due course.

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