India clarified marines' case, no assurance given to Italy: MEA

India clarified marines' case, no assurance given to Italy: MEA

India on Wednesday made it clear that it had only given a clarification – not an assurance – to Italy on the issue of death penalty for the two Italian Navy personnel accused of killing Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala on February 15, 2012.

New Delhi also stated that while it was confident on the clarification it had given to Rome, it was open to judicial scrutiny and the final call on the issue would be taken by a court of law.  The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) stated that New Delhi had clarified to Rome that the case against the Italian marines, according to well-settled Indian jurisprudence, would not fall in the “rarest of rare” category that attracted death penalty.

Syed Akbaruddin, the official spokesperson of the MEA, said that Government of India had given the  clarification to the Italian government after being advised by Attorney General G E Vahanvati that the case would not fall in the rarest of rare category to attract capital punishment. He, however, added that since the issue was sub-judice, it was now up to the court to take a final call on it.

Union home ministry officials, however, said the NIA has been designated to probe the case. But, till Wednesday evening, the NIA was not able to take over the case from the Kerala police over confusion prevailing whether the "clarification" MEA had given to Italians that the killing would not invite death penalty amounts to diplomatic assurance between the two nations. 

The home ministry was attempting to get a clear view on this issue from the MEA. And if this is so, said ministry sources, it will have to be factored into before NIA launches a formal probe into the sensitive matter. Though the section 302 of the IPC can be invoked by the NIA, the problems stem from applying the special act of Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act 2002.

This act clearly states that killing would lead to capital punishment. So, sources said, if the government is committed to not giving the two marines death sentence, this special act cannot be invoked in this case. Also, NIA is being tasked to probe this case as this is one of the schedule offence the agency can investigate as per their act.

The other issue which was bothering the home ministry was the fact that all the European countries, including Italy, have abolished death penalty. The officials were trying to get legal view on the issue that it is  mandatory in international cases to have parity between the charges slapped here and  those in the country of the accused.
 The MEA also stated that India’s new envoy to Italy, Basant K Gupta, would leave for Rome later this month. In the wake of the diplomatic row earlier over Italian government’s decision not to send the two marines back to India, the MEA had last month put on hold Gupta’s departure to Rome.

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