Another 'humanitarian' decision lands Sushma in soup

New Delhi in difficult situation over Italian marine issue

Another 'humanitarian' decision lands Sushma in soup

Another “humanitarian” decision taken by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on the Italian marines issue has put the government in a tight spot.

New Delhi is now exploring its options after Rome sought international arbitration in the case of the marines accused with killing two fishermen of Kerala off the southern coast of India.

Rome last week not only announced its unilateral move to seek international arbitration against New Delhi within the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, but also made it clear that it would not send Latorre Massimiliano, one of the two accused Italian Navy personnel, back to India. Latorre had been in Italy since September 2014, as the Supreme Court of India had allowed him to go home for a surgery after suffering a stroke.

The External Affairs Ministry headed by Sushma Swaraj had not opposed ailing Latorre’s plea seeking Supreme Court’s permission to take a break from the judicial process in India and go to Italy.

No opposition to bail

“As regards marine’s applications in the Supreme Court, we are not opposing that application on humanitarian grounds. If the court decides to give him this bail and they allow him to go to Italy, we will not oppose that,” Swaraj had told journalists on September 8, 2014, the day she had her first formal interaction with mediapersons after taking over as External Affairs Minister almost two-and-a-half months back.

She made the remark after an Italian journalist asked her about the stand of India on Latorre’s plea.

The minister is already embroiled in a controversy after it was revealed that she had helped former Indian Premier League chief Lalit Modi to get a travel document from UK authorities at a time when his passport was revoked by India for not complying with the summons issued by the Directorate of Enforcement.

Sushma had posted on Twitter that she had helped Lalit Modi on “humanitarian view” as he had to travel from UK to Portugal for his wife’s surgery.

Sources in New Delhi told Deccan Herald on Monday that the legal experts of the Ministry of External Affairs and other wings of the government were “studying the issue”. 

The apex court had on September 12, 2014 first allowed Latorre to return to Italy for four months. He, however, is yet to return to India. The last time the Supreme Court granted him an extension to stay in Italy was on April 9 last and he now has time till July 15 to return to India.

His colleague, Salvatore Girone, however, is residing in Embassy of Italy in New Delhi. Rome last Friday said that it would also seek Girone’s return to Italy pending the outcome of arbitration.

Rome had earlier refused to send back the marines to India in March 2013, after the Supreme Court had allowed them to go to Italy to cast votes in the parliamentary elections. The then Congress-led UPA government’s decision not to oppose their plea was criticised by the BJP and other opposition parties in Parliament. New Delhi’s tough talk however made Rome change mind and the marines had returned to stand trial in India.

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