The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Kerala government to consider within one week the plea for transferring to a guest house the two Italian marines, arrested in connection with the killing of Indian fishermen, on board the Enrica Lexie.
A bench of justices Altamas Kabir and S S Nijjar passed the order after Italy sought transfer of the two arrested marines to a suitable guest house in tune with their status.
Senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for the Italian government, submitted that the marines were decorated officers and it would be proper for them to be shifted to a guest house.
He told the court that the Italian government had made a request to the Kerala government as early as March 8, but the state government had not taken any decision on the issue till date.
Former Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam on behalf of the Kerala government said the state government had no objection to shifting them to a guest house but wanted four weeks to take a decision as the marines needed to be provided adequate security.
Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising, in response to a query from the court, said that the Centre had no objection on the issue as security was essentially a state subject.
Following this, the apex court granted one week's time to the state government to consider the application of the accused marines.
The bench, in its order, further clarified that the pendency of the writ petition filed by the Italian government in the apex court shall not prevent the accused from moving an application for bail before the chief judicial magistrate.
The clarification was issued after Salve pleaded that pendency of writ petition shall not preclude accused from seeking bail or initiate other proceedings.
The two Italian marines have been charged with killing two Kerala fishermen Valentine and Ajesh Binki on February 15, this year, suspecting them to be pirates. They are lodged in Thiruvananthapuram Central Jail.
Their arrest culminated in a diplomatic row between India and Italy, which wants the marines to be sent home and tried there. Italy claims that the shooting took place in international waters after the marines mistook the fishermen for Somalian pirates.