SC asks Italian envoy not to leave India till further orders
The apex court had on March 14 asked the Italian Ambassador not to leave the country without its permission, taking exception to his government's refusal to send back the two marines, Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone.
"Having heard senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini and Republic of Italy, we direct to list the matter on April 2, 2013 for further orders.
"The interim order passed on March 14 directing Mancini not to leave India without the permission of this court is extended till further orders," a bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said.
The bench, also comprising justices A R Dave and Ranjana Prakash Desai, directed that "all authorities in the country shall take appropriate steps" relating to the order restraining Mancini from leaving India.
Before passing the order, the bench said the period of four weeks for which the marines were allowed to go to Italy to cast their vote was yet to be over and still they have time to return.
"We respected the undertaking (given by the Ambassador) and we allowed them (marines) to go for four weeks which will end on March 22. There is still time for them to come. Strictly speaking they have not still violated our order. It is a case where one government is communicating to another government and we have nothing to do," the bench observed.
The two marines were on board an Italian vessel 'Enrica Lexie' when they allegedly shot dead two fishermen off the Kerala coast on February 15, last year.Attorney General G E Vahanvati brought to the court's notice the latest note verbale sent to the government by the Italian authorities in which it spoke about the issues concerning diplomatic relations contained in the Vienna Convention of 1961.
Vahanvati said it was intriguing that the note verbale mentions that no Indian authority will restrict the freedom of movement of the Italian Ambassador.
He said,"the Ministry of External Affairs is fully mindful of its international obligations."
After Rohatgi said he was appearing for Republic of Italy and the Ambassador, the bench told him, "We are concerned with Daniele Mancini. What is your intention Mr Daniele Mancini?
"We are concerned with the intention. Are you going to comply with this order? We are not concerned with anything else," the bench said.
After the order extending the March 14 direction was passed, Rohatgi again raised the issue of diplomatic immunity enjoyed by the Italian Ambassador.
His submission anguished the bench which said, "We don't go by anything. He has given the undertaking. We are not so naive.
"He has no immunity. What do you think of our judicial system," the bench said and added that so many things are being written about the incident.
"You went to Italy after giving an undertaking. We never expected and we never believed that the Italian Ambassador will renege like this," the bench observed.
As Rohatgi pressed on the issue of immunity, the bench reminded him once again about the undertaking given by the Italian envoy.
"We don't accept his statement. We don't believe his statement. He has lost trust," it said.
The court said, "The person who has come to this court as petitioner, we don't think he has any immunity."The two accused marines were allowed by the apex court on February 22 to travel to Italy for four weeks under the control and custody of the Italian Ambassador to cast their ballot in the elections scheduled there for February 24-25.
The Italian government, which had given an undertaking before the court that the marines will be sent back, had on March 11 sent a note verbale to the Indian government informing it that the two will not be sent back.
On January 18, the apex court had turned down the Italian government's plea that the Indian courts had no jurisdiction in the case and had held that the two marines should be tried a special court constituted by the Centre.
It had directed that the two be shifted to Delhi and would remain under it's 'custody' till the special court is set up.
The court had said that the Kerala government did not have the jurisdiction to prosecute the two foreign marines and it is to be done by the Centre in the special court to be set up after consulting the Chief Justice of India (CJI).
The court had also said that all the conditions imposed on them by the Kerala court while granting them bail will remain till the special court is set up and the marines will mark their presence at least once a week before Chanakyapuri Police Station.