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Fishermen deaths: SC objects to Italy's deal with families

April 30, 2012 17:25 IST
The Supreme Court on Monday sought the Italian government's stand on a plea for release of its vessel Enrica Lexie whose two marines allegedly had shot dead two Indian fishermen, Jalastine and Binki, in February.

A bench of justices R M Lodha and H L Gokhale reserved its order on vessel's owner Dolphin Tankers' plea for release of the ship for 10.30 am on Tuesday by which time the Italian government too was asked to file its reply.

Earlier during the two-hour-long argument, the apex court questioned the Kerala government as to why it did not oppose the compromise reached between the families of the deceased fishermen and the Italian vessel's owners, who reportedly paid Rs 1 crore to each victim's family.

Referring to the compromise, the apex court bench said, "This is a challenge to the Indian judicial system, this is impermissible. It is most unfortunate."

The apex court also indicated that it was not in favour of detaining the vessel crew and the two marines unless their presence was required by the investigating authorities.

The bench made it clear that not only the citizens of this country but even foreign nationals, present in the country are entitled to the protection as per Article 21 which grants right to life and liberty to everyone in India.

Earlier on April 23, the court had sought the response of the Centre and the Kerala government on Italian government's plea to quash the criminal cases against its two merchant navy personnel. The court is also hearing a petition challenging the seizure of Italian vessel Enrica Lexie by the Indian authorities after two of its onboard marines allegedly gunned down two Indian fishermen on February 15.

The special leave petition was filed by Enrica's owners, Dolphin Tankers questioning the Kerala high court's order staying the release of the vessel.  seeks Italian govt's stand on release of Enrica Lexie ship

In its petition filed under Article 32, the Italian government had asserted that the Kerala government has no locus standi to register any criminal case as the alleged offence ought to be treated under international law and covenants as India is a signatory to the United Nations charter.

Appearing for the Italian government, senior counsel Harish Salve had told the bench that the matter needs to be dealt between the two countries and the Kerala government had no jurisdiction in interfering with the matter as the incident had occurred in "contigual waters" 12 nautical miles beyond the Indian jurisdiction. He had said the action of the Italian personnel was part of their official duty.

Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising had questioned the maintainability of the petition of the Italian government on the ground that it was not a citizen within the meaning of Article 32 for invoking the court's jurisdiction.

Counsel for the Kerala government had also opposed the Italian government's petition on the ground that the Kerala high court had already reserved its judgment on the issue.

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