I don’t think you have immunity, Chief Justice tells Italian envoy

Even as Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini claimed complete immunity under the Vienna Convention, the Supreme Court on Monday extended until further orders its direction restraining him from leaving the country.

A Bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justices Anil R. Dave and Ms. Ranjana Desai made it clear to the envoy that a person who came to the court as a petitioner could not claim any immunity.

When the Chief Justice asked senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi appearing for the Ambassador whether the two marines would return before the scheduled expiry date of March 22, counsel said: “the Ambassador has no further instructions other than the one given by his government. There is complete immunity under the Vienna Convention and we can place on record all the documents.”

Even as the Chief Justice was dictating the restraint order, Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati sought a specific direction that all the authorities “shall ensure compliance of the order.” Mr. Rohatgi submitted it was not necessary, as the Ambassador would not leave the country.

The Chief Justice observed: “A person who has come to court as a petitioner, I don’t think he has any immunity. Some people are writing that we are naïve. What do they think about our judicial system? We don’t expect the Republic of Italy to behave like this. He [Ambassador] has lost the trust.”

In its brief order, the Bench said: “having heard senior counsel advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini and Republic of Italy, we direct the matter to be listed on April 2 for further orders. The interim order passed on March 14 directing Mr. Mancini not to leave India without the permission of this court is extended until further orders. All the authorities shall ensure compliance of this order.”

Earlier, Mr. Vahanvati told the Bench that the Government of India received another note verbale on March 15 after the court passed the order on March 14.

The Chief Justice told Mr. Vahanvati: “strictly speaking there is still time till March 22 for the compliance of the order. They have not still violated our order. We are not concerned with one government communicating with another government. We are concerned with compliance of our order.”

The Attorney-General read out the note verbale, which said “the Embassy of Italy presents its compliments to the Ministry of External Affairs of the Union of India and in connection to its note verbale dated March 14 has to honour to remind the MEA of the obligations relating to the protection of diplomatic agents enshrined in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of April 18 1961, to which both Italy and India are parties including in particular Articles 29 and 31 para 1.1. Any restriction to the freedom of movement of the Ambassador of Italy to India, including any limitation to right of leaving the Indian territory, will be contrary to the international obligations of the receiving State to respect his person, freedom dignity and function.”

It said:

“The Embassy of Italy expects therefore that the MEA will ensure full compliance with the privileges and immunities contemplated in the Convention and provide reassurance that no Indian Authority shall impose or implement restrictive measures on the personal freedom of His Excellency the Ambassador.”

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2021 5:22:06 PM |

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