SC bars Italian envoy from leaving country

Govt tells apex court that Rome breached assurance

SC bars Italian envoy from leaving country

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked Italian ambassador Daniele Mancini not to leave the country, after the Centre pointed out that Italy had reneged on its undertaking to send back two marines to face legal proceedings here.

In a major development, the Union government informed the apex court about the “note verbale (diplomatic missive),” received from Italy on March 11, which stated that the “two marines (Latore Massimilano and Salvadore Girone) will not return to India on expiration of the permission granted to them.”

New Delhi has also started reviewing all aspects of its ties with Rome, indicating that diplomatic relations between the two countries may sour if the Italian government does not send the two marines back to stand trial here. India’s new envoy to Italy, Basant K Gupta, is unlikely to be sent to Rome anytime soon.

The apex court on February 22 allowed Massimilano and Girone to go to Italy for four weeks to vote in the general elections there. The period of leave will expire on March 23.
Attorney General G E Vahanvati mentioned the matter before a three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir. “The government is extremely concerned about what has happened, more so, because it is under the order passed by the court,” he said. “I want to bring it to the attention of the court. This is untenable. It is a breach of undertaking given to highest court of the country.”

Taking the matter into consideration, the bench, also comprising justices A R Dave and Vikramjit Sen, issued notices to Italy, the marines and Mancini and directed them to file responses by March 18.

Vahanvati read out the undertaking given by Mancini on February 9, in which he admitted the “concession” given by the apex court through its “carefully-worded order” and assured that the marines “will be constantly under the care, custody, control, supervision and guardianship of the applicant so as to ensure their production on or before the date prescribed by this court before the commissioner of police, New Delhi.

“Therefore, failure of the accused marines to return to India within the stipulated time would be a breach of the sovereign undertaking given by Italy to the Supreme Court of India. It was affirmed that Italy was obliged to honour the sovereign undertaking given to the court and, therefore, it had to ensure the return of marines to India to face legal proceedings here within the period stipulated by the order of the court,” Vahanvati said, reading out an affidavit filed on behalf of the Ministry of External Affairs.

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