New Delhi, Aug 7 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Friday told the Centre to let Italy pay the victims compensation in the Italian marines case, and then it could allow the withdrawal by the prosecution. The top court insisted that it will have to hear the kin of the victims on adequacy of compensation and till then it would not close the case.
A bench comprising Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice A.S. Bopanna and Justice V. Ramasubramanian told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, “bring the cheques and the kin of victims here”.
The bench noted that the top court cannot think of any relief for the Italian marines till their prosecution is withdrawn in the Kerala court. Mehta replied the Centre is willing to file a petition for withdrawing prosecution of the two marines.
The Chief Justice replied “but the family of victims will have a problem. They will have to be heard”. Mehta contended before the top court that the Centre is in favour of withdrawing the prosecution of the Italian marines in India, as Italy is ready to prosecute them.
The bench noted that without hearing the kin of the deceased it cannot close the case.
The top court asked Mehta to file an application seeking impleadment of the families of the victims within a week. The top court adjourned the hearing on the pending petition filed by the two Italian marines – Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone.
On July 3, the Centre had informed the top court that it has accepted the international tribunal award in the killing of two fishermen by the Italian marines. The Centre asked the apex court to close the matter pending before it for eight years. The tribunal ruled for the trial of the marines in Italy. It said India is entitled to payment of compensation in connection with loss of life, physical harm, material damage to property and moral harm suffered by the captain and other crew members of the Indian fishing boat ‘St Antony’.
The Centre in the application filed in the top court said, “The applicant (Union of India) states and submits that the Republic of India has taken a decision to accept and abide by the award passed by the Tribunal which would have the bearing on the continuance of present proceedings before this court.”
On February 15, 2012, two Indian fishermen aboard the fishing vessel St Antony were allegedly killed by the two Italian marines aboard the Italian tanker ‘Enrica Lexie’ off the coast of Kerala.
The Centre submitted that on August 24, 2015, International Tribunal on Law of the Sea (ITLOS), on the request of Italy, rendered an order prescribing provisional measure stating that Italy and India shall both suspend all court proceedings. On August 26, 2015, the apex court, in view of the pendency of the issue before International Tribunal on Law of the Sea (ITLOS), stayed the proceedings pending before it and before any other court. “The Tribunal upheld the conduct of Indian authorities with respect to the incident and highlighted the material and moral harm suffered by the Indian fishermen on board the St. Antony on 15 February 2012. It held that the actions of the Italian Marines breached India’s freedom and right of navigation under UNCLOS Article 87(1)(a) and 90,” said the Centre citing salient features of the internal award.
The Indian Navy intercepted the Italian tanker and detained the two marines, triggering an international conflict over legal jurisdiction and functional immunity. The two marines were released and returned to Italy after two and four years, respectively. The Arbitral Tribunal of the United Nations was tasked to resolve the conflict over jurisdiction.