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Italy ship firing: Furious Kerala asks Centre to withdraw Raval

Last updated on: April 21, 2012 22:05 IST

Livid over the U-turn made by Additional Solicitor General Harin Raval in the Italian ship case, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Saturday sought his immediate withdrawal from the case.

In a fax message to Law Minister Salman Khurshid, Chandy sought to know under what circumstances Raval had submitted in the Supreme Court that India had no jurisdiction to detain the Italian ship Enrica Lexie, from which marines had shot dead two Indian fishermen on February 15 off Kerala coast.

In his submission, Raval had said the ship was not within Indian territorial waters when the shooting incident took place.

Chandy wanted the attorney general to replace Raval, whose submission in the apex court on Friday drew sharp reactions from both the opposition and the ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front.

Earlier, talking to reporters in Kochi, Chandy said there was no change in the state's stand on the issue and that Raval would not appear in the case.

Chandy said Kerala had kept the central government informed at each stage of the case and had received full support.

"The government is clear that the incident happened in Indian waters," Shipping Minister G K Vasan told reporters in Chennai.

"It might be his personal opinion," Vasan said when asked about Raval's submissions.

The ruling Congress-led UDF in Kerala found itself in a bind as the ASG's submission contradicted the stand of the government headed by Oommen Chandy, which firmly held that India has the legal competence to try the case under its law.

Seizing on the development, critics said ASG's submission amounted to reinforcing Italy's assertion that Indian courts had no jurisdiction to try the case, since the alleged incident happened when the ship was in international waters.

Referring to the development, Corporate Affairs Minister Veerappa Moily said in Thrissur that the Centre and Kerala were not on different "wavelengths" on the issue.

"Sometimes the views expressed are not in consonance with the views of the central government. I do not think that the central government and state government are on different wavelengths," he said.

"Whenever there are mistakes, we have corrected them," Moily said.

Spearheading the no-holds-barred attack on the Centre, Communist Party of India - Marxist stalwart V S Achuthanandan said the submission made by the ASG was nothing short of a betrayal of the country and people.

Doramma and Derirk Valentine, the deceased fisherman's wife and son, respectively, said that it was difficult for them to understand as to how the Centre could take such a U-turn in the case after expressing solidarity with the bereaved families.

The two fishermen were killed when the Marines, Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Gironi, allegedly fired at their boat off Kollam coast. They were arrested on February 19 and charged with murder.

Earlier, the Kerala high court had directed the state police to allow the ship to leave after furnishing a bond of Rs three crore and an undertaking to the Cochin Port Trust authorities that the vessel, master and crew would be produced as and when required by the authorities.

But this order was stayed by a division bench.

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