Special court to try Italian marines

SC refuses to quash criminal case

Special court to try Italian marines

Italian marines arrested for killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast will be tried in Delhi by a special court to be set up by the Centre, the Supreme Court held on Friday.

A bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice J Chelameswar rejected the plea made by the Italy government and two accused challenging India’s jurisdiction in the case.

The court directed that marines Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone should be shifted to Delhi. They should remain in control of Italian embassy till the Centre sets up a special court to hold their trial.
The court also ordered that their passports, in custody of a Kollam court, be handed over to the Home Ministry.

Both Justice Kabir and Justice Chelameswar wrote separate but concurring judgments on the petitions filed by the Italy government as well as two Royal Navy officials.

“The Union of India extended the application of the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure to the Contiguous Zone, which entitled it to take cognizance of,  investigate and prosecute persons who commit any infraction of the domestic laws within the Contiguous Zone. However, such a power is not vested with the state of Kerala,” the bench said.

However, the court said: “Whether the accused acted on the misunderstanding that the Indian fishing vessel was a pirate vessel which caused the accused to fire, is a matter of evidence which can only be established during a trial. If the defence advanced on behalf of the accused is accepted, then only will the provisions of Article 100 of the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) would be applicable.”

The court also directed the Centre to set up a special court in consultation with the chief justice of India to try the case in accordance with the provisions of the Maritime Zones Act, 1976, the IPC, CrPC, and, the provisions of UNCLOS 1982.

In the verdict, the court said that as the incident took place at a distance of about 20.5 nautical miles from the coastline of Kerala, it was within the Contiguous Zone, which would not be covered under state police jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, Dora, wife of one of the victims, Jelestine, said: “I am least bothered where the trial is being held. My request is that justice be done.’’

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