Centre seeks time from SC to resolve marines' issue

Advocate says logjam created by home ministry

Centre seeks time from SC to resolve marines' issue

The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that all issues related to invocation of a stringent anti-piracy law against two Italian marines, being tried for killing Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in 2012, would be sorted out very soon.

The Italian government and the two marines had approached the apex court, challenging the Home Ministry’s decision to invoke the SUA (Suppression of Unlawful Acts against safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf) Act in the case. 

Senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi, appearing for the marines, contended that a “logjam” was created after the Home Ministry on January 17 issued a sanction to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to prosecute the accused under the anti-piracy law. He said this was in contravention of the External Affairs Ministry and Parliament’s assurance that no provision carrying death penalty would be raised against them.

“The petitioners are not private people. The persons involved are active military officers. They should be allowed to go back to their country till the logjam created between the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs is resolved,”  counsel submitted before a bench presided over by Justice B S Chauhan.

Rohtagi also submitted that the apex court’s order to create a special court here to try the petitioners have not been complied with. He sought the intervention of the apex court, contending that it had international ramifications. Attorney General G E Vahanvati, appearing for the Centre, submitted that the matter was being considered by the Law Ministry.

The bench decided to defer the matter to next Monday after the country’s top law officer said something concrete could emerge by then. The Italian government had claimed that invoking the SUA Act, which carried death penalty, went against an apex court order, which allowed proceedings only under the Maritime Zone Act, IPC, Criminal Procedure Code and the UNCLOS.

The joint petition, filed by Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini, along with the marines—Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone—also sought direction to the Centre and the NIA to either expedite proceedings or release them.

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