Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Friday that he was not in favour of withdrawing the case against the two Italian marines who shot dead Indian fishermen off the western coast in 2012, PTI reported. The Centre on Thursday moved the Supreme Court for the withdrawal of proceedings against the marines, following an order by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague in the Netherlands.
The tribunal court had ruled that while India is entitled to seek compensation from Italy for the killing of the two fishermen, it cannot prosecute the marines – Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre – as they enjoy official immunity.
“The applicant states and submits that the Republic of India has taken a decision to accept and abide by the award passed by the said tribunal which would have the bearing on the continuance of present proceedings before this court,” the Centre’s application in the Supreme Court on Thursday said, according to PTI. The Centre added that the arbitration, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, delivered its verdict on May 21.
The Centre told the Supreme Court that as India is a party to the convention, the ruling is binding upon it, without appeal, and has to be complied with by both India and Italy.
But Vijayan said on Friday that it is unfortunate that the marines cannot be tried in India. “It’s unfortunate that the trial is not taking place in our country,” he said. “Some media reports suggested that we were unable to pose our arguments well with the tribunal. However, about the compensation, our country needs to take strong steps to ensure it.”
Vijayan also told reporters that he was not in favour of the Centre’s affidavit in the Supreme Court. “If the Centre is planning to withdraw the case, Kerala is not in favour of it and will inform the Centre,” Vijayan said.
Congress accuses Centre of foul play
Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee President Mullappally Ramachandran claimed on Friday that the Narendra Modi-led government had committed a huge lapse by looking into just the navigation aspect of the case, not its criminal aspect, Mathrubhumi reported. He also wondered why the Centre revealed the court’s verdict over a month after it was passed.
“This delay is purposefully done to escape the ire of the people and is also against the directive of the Supreme Court,” Ramachandran said. “The then-UPA [United Progressive Alliance] government and also then-Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy did their best to ensure justice for the victims. But ever since Modi took over, the reins, things went in the wrong direction as he and the Italian government had a secret understanding.”
Chandy, a Congress leader, backed Ramachandran’s view of the matter, and asked the Kerala government to put maximum pressure on the Centre to opt for an appeal.
The marines had claimed innocence following the shooting, saying that they thought the fishermen were pirates in international waters. The Supreme Court had allowed the repatriation of Latorre due to a heart attack he faced in 2014. In 2016, the court permitted Girone to return home.
India and Italy had taken the case to the international court in 2015. The main bone of contention between the two countries is Italy’s assertion that India cannot try the marines, as the crime was committed outside Indian territorial waters. India has rejected the claim of the shooting taking place in international waters.
On Thursday, the international court also said that Italy cannot seek compensation for the detention of the marines in India.