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NIA won't press for death sentence against Italian marines

Source: PTI
April 02, 2013 22:01 IST

The National Investigation Agency, which has been asked to probe the killing of two Kerala fishermen allegedly by Italian marines, will not seek the death sentence for the two accused, honouring an assurance given to Italy by India.

A top home ministry official said the National Investigation Agency will not press for death sentence against the marines -- Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone -- as per the assurance given by India to Italy.

On March 22, after their return from Italy, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had told Parliament that India has given an assurance to that country that the duo will not face the death penalty, nor will they be liable for arrest if they return by the deadline set by the Supreme Court.

India had given assurances after clarifications were sought on death penalty, which was a ‘concern’ to that country.

Home Secretary R K Singh is expected to have a meeting with Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and Director General of National Investigation Agency S C Sinha -- to discuss issues related to the assurance given by New Delhi to Rome -- before the probe agency frames charges against the marines.

The official said the marines will be slapped with relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and the NIA Act.

Even though the IPC sections provide for death sentence in a murder in rarest of rare case, the prosecutors will not press for capital punishment in the court as per the assurance given to Italy, the official said.

"We cannot go back on the commitment given to a sovereign nation. If we do that, no country will cooperate with India in future in any such case," the official said.

The NIA will re-register case and file the chargesheet before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in Delhi, who will commit the case to a sessions court.

Officials said the sessions court will decide whether the case will be tried in a special court or the existing NIA special court in Delhi.

The Supreme Court had on January 18 said the marines on board Enrica Lexie, accused of shooting dead the two fishermen in February last year, be shifted to Delhi and be under the 'custody' of the Supreme Court till the Centre constitutes a special court to hold their trial. 

"The incident of firing from the Italian vessel on the Indian shipping vessel having occurred within the Contiguous Zone, the Union of India is entitled to prosecute the two Italian marines under the criminal justice system prevalent in the country," the bench had said.

The apex court had said that since the Kerala government had no jurisdiction to prosecute the two foreign marines, it had to be done by the Centre in a special court, to be set up after consulting the Chief Justice of India.

A fortnight ago, the Italian government had reversed its earlier decision not to send back to India the two marines who had gone to Italy to cast votes in elections there.

Italy had reneged on its assurance to the Supreme Court on sending back the two marines, but later gave in after the Indian government and the apex court took a firm stand, with New Delhi warning that ties with Rome could be downgraded.

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