In a setback to Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen, the Supreme Court on Friday turned down their government's plea that Indian courts had no jurisdiction in the case and directed that their trial be conducted by a special court.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said the Kerala government has no jurisdiction to prosecute the two foreign marines.
It said the trial of the case be conducted by a special court to be set up by the Centre after consulting the chief justice of India.
The bench passed the order on a petition filed by the Italian government through its ambassador questioning the jurisdiction of Indian courts in hearing the case against its marines.
The bench also comprising Justice J Chelameswar did not specify where the special court is to be set up for the trial and left it to the Centre to decide on the issue after consulting the CJI.
The apex court had on September 4 last year reserved its order on the Italian government's plea challenging the jurisdiction of Indian courts to try its two marines.
The case pertains to the killing of two Indian fishermen allegedly by two Italian naval officers -- Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone -- on board 'Enrica Lexie'.
Fearing a pirate attack, the two officers had allegedly fired at the fishermen' vessel off Kerala coast in February last year, killing two of them.
On May 29, the high court had ruled that the Italian marines were liable to be tried before a Kollam court in Kerala.
The apex court had on May 2, in a conditional relief, allowed the vessel to leave Indian shores along with crew members and remaining marines, subject to the condition that they make themselves available whenever required by authorities during the investigation and prosecution of the two arrested marines.
It had directed the ship owner to execute a bond of Rs 3 crore before the registrar general of the Kerala high court as a surety for the presence of crew members and the vessel, whenever required.
The apex court had, however, made it clear that its order would not affect the right of the Kerala government to conduct the investigation and the prosecution of the two arrested marines.
After the incident, the two marines were arrested and charged with murder and lodged in the central prison in Thiruvananthapuram under judicial remand.