The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted three-month extension to Italian Marine Massimiliano Latorre, accused in the killing of two Indian fishermen off Kerala coast, to stay back in Italy to convalesce after undergoing a heart surgery on January 5.
A three-judge Bench led by Justice Anil R. Dave allowed the furlough for Latorre even as Centre’s counsel and Additional Solicitor General P.S. Narasimha said the government was not objecting solely on “humanitarian grounds.”
Mr. Narasimha, however, brought to the court’s attention that the trial was held up despite the constitution of a special court and appointment of a prosecutor.
Mr. Latorre and fellow marine Salvattore Girone, aboard the vessel ‘Enrica Lexie’, allegedly shot dead the two fishermen mistaking them for pirates.
“The entire thing is stayed because he [Latorre] is not here. We are only agreeing to this on humanitarian grounds,” Mr. Narasimha submitted.
The ASG explained the position after Justice Kurian Joseph, also on the Bench, posed specific queries about the trial in the murder case. Mr. Narasimha told the Bench that a writ petition filed by the Republic of Italy questioning the jurisdiction of Indian courts to try the case was also pending in the apex court. To this, Justice Joseph said the pending writ should be listed immediately for hearing.
The Bench said its order to extend the period of stay of Mr. Latorre would be subject to the Italian Ambassador providing an undertaking identical to the one given by him on September 12, 2014, when the marine was allowed to leave for four months to Italy to recover from a brain stroke suffered here.
Senior advocate Soli Sorabji, appearing for the marine, said the Ambassador was ready with the undertaking on the same terms and conditions.
The marine's application came to Justice Dave’s Bench after a Bench led by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu recused itself on January 12.
The CJI’s Bench in December refused an identical application for extension by Mr. Latorre. He had remarked in the open court that “the Indian victims also have rights.”
The court then reminded his lawyers that the probe into the 2012 killing of Indian fishermen was not over yet. The CJI observed that the “yardstick should be the same for everyone.”
“As you have a right, the victims too have a right. Leave alone the trial, even the investigation is not complete. The charge sheet is not filed. Sorry,” the CJI orally observed during the December hearing.