Italian marines case | Supreme Court to hear Centre's plea to close cases against the two accused on April 9

Italian Marines Massimiliano Latorre (right) and Salvator Girone. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

The government on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to schedule an urgent hearing of its application to close the criminal trials pending in India against two Italian marines accused of killing two fishermen off the coast of Kerala in 2012.

A Bench led by Chief Justice Sharad A. Bobde agreed to hear the case on April 9.

Also read | Italian marines case: will close trial only after victims’ kin get ‘hefty’ compensation, says SC

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the government, said the victims’ families have been compensated and the case needs to be disposed off.

Eight months ago, the Centre had informed the apex court about its decision to “accept and abide” by an international tribunal’s award that the Marines, Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre, should be tried in their native Italy.

The government had explained that India was bound by the award of the arbitral tribunal formed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The award was “final and without appeal” as India was a party to the UN Convention.

Editorial | Just closure: On Italian marines case

In a virtual hearing in August last year, the court had made it clear that it would close the criminal trial of the Marines in India only after the victims’ families were heard and paid a ‘hefty’ compensation. The court had asked the government to negotiate an ‘adequate’ compensation for the slain fishermen’s families with Italy.

“We appreciate the steps taken by Italy to prosecute the two Marines... You want to withdraw the criminal cases against them, but you have not been able to fix the compensation [for the families of the victims]. Secondly, the fact is that there is a pending trial in a criminal court and the victims’ families are parties there. How can we order withdrawal of the cases here without first hearing them?” Chief Justice Bobde, heading a three-judge Bench, had asked Mr. Mehta and advocate Suhail Dutt, for Italy, in that hearing.

Editorial | Lessons for India: On Italian marines case

Girone and Latorre, who were detailed on the Italian ship ‘Enrica Lexie’, allegedly shot the fishermen thinking they were ‘pirates’.

India is entitled to compensation for the loss of life. Its freedom and right of navigation was violated by the Marines, the U.N. tribunal had held.

The tribunal’s finding that the Marines had immunity came seven years after the Supreme Court ordered the Centre to “proceed with the investigation and trial of the Marines” in a decision on January 18, 2013. The apex court had ordered the Centre to set up a Special Court to try the case. Prior to the Supreme Court verdict, the Kerala High Court too had found that the Marines enjoyed no immunity.

However, in 2014, the Marines had successfully gained a stay order on the investigation by the National Investigation Agency. A year later, the Supreme Court had stopped its own proceedings to wait the verdict from the International Tribunal on Law of Seas.

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Printable version | May 16, 2021 6:59:12 PM |

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