Two years on, Italian marines’ case still adrift

February 15, 2014 03:07 am | Updated November 28, 2021 11:50 am IST - KOLLAM:

From the Neendakara coastal police station in Kollam in February 2012, the Italian marines’ case has now reached the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York. In the interim, the case passed through the Kollam Chief Judicial Magistrate Court, the Kollam District and Sessions Court, the Kerala High Court, and the Supreme Court.

The marines were accused of killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast.

The developments behind the journey from Kollam to New York have led to uncertainty over the location of the trial and when it will begin. .

Italy has registered strong protest against India slapping the provisions of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf (SUA) Act against the marines. Italy says the provisions are those slapped against pirates, and its marines are not pirates. It has called for UN intervention in the matter.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon responded on Wednesday by stating that it was a bilateral issue. The statement triggered fury in Italy. But on Thursday, Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino formally stated that Mr. Ban Ki-moon had assured her of taking up the issue with the Indian authorities.

The case came up for trail before the Kollam District and Sessions Court on June 2, 2012. The Supreme Court, acting on a plea from the marines, gave a verdict on January 18, 2013, that “Only the Union of India had jurisdiction to proceed with the investigation and trial of the two marines.”

Consequently, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs entrusted the case to the National Investigating Agency (NIA) for re-investigation. Supreme Court lawyer C.S. Nair, counsel for the marines when the case came up for trial in the Kollam court, said that even after almost one year of the NIA investigation, the charge sheet had not been filed. He alleged that entrusting the case to the NIA was part of a conspiracy to ensure that the marines were somehow convicted.

The SUA Act against the marines was earlier considered by the Kerala Police but dropped as it had no locus standi, he said. G. Mohanraj, who was Special Public Prosecutor for the case in the Kollam court, said the Kerala Police dropped the SUA provisions against the marines because States were not notified to charge the same. He said Italy had blocked the progress in the case both at the investigation and the trial levels by filing petitions. The NIA charge sheet was ready but could not be filed because Italy’s petition was pending before the Supreme Court.

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