The Supreme Court on April 9 will hold an immediate hearing on the government’s plea to close the pending criminal proceedings against two Italian marines accused of murdering two fishermen off the coast of Kerala in 2012.
The Centre’s Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told a bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde, Justices A S Bopanna, and V Ramasubramaian that the victims’ families had been compensated and that the plea should be heard as soon as possible.
The court initially scheduled the case for next week, but the Solicitor General requested an early date, stating that “there is some urgency since it is between the Indian and Italian governments.”
The government informed the Supreme Court in July 2020 that it had agreed to recognise the International Arbitral Tribunal’s verdict in the case on May 21, 2020, and that the proceedings pending before the court should be dismissed in light of the tribunal’s decision.
The court, on the other hand, made it clear that it would not issue any orders after the first hearing from the victims’ relatives, who should be compensated appropriately, according to the court.
While the tribunal stated that India is entitled to compensation for the lives lost, it also stated that the Italian marines could not be prosecuted in India due to their immunity.
The ruling also said that, in compliance with the terms of the UNCLOS — of which India is a signatory — and the Rules of Procedure decided upon by the parties, the award is definitive and non-appealable, and that the parties to the dispute must follow it.
The marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who were posted on the Enrica Lexie, were charged with shooting and killing two Indian fishermen onboard their fishing vessel St Antony, according to Kerala Police.
The marines mistook the fisherman for pirates. The pair then lodged a petition in Kerala High Court, seeking the state’s jurisdiction over the investigation.
Following the dismissal of their appeal by the high court, they appealed to the Supreme Court.
On January 1, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the state of Kerala lacked jurisdiction over the case and that the investigation should be conducted by the Centre. The court requested that the Centre establish a special court to hear the appeal.
The marines then appealed to the Supreme Court, opposing the NIA’s investigation into the case. The supreme court stayed the trial before the special court on March 28, 2014.