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Cases Against Italian Marines Will Be Closed Only After Compensation Is Deposited, Says Supreme Court

9 April 2021 7:21 AM GMT
Cases Against Italian Marines Will Be Closed Only After Compensation Is Deposited, Says Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Friday observed that the criminal cases pending in India against the two Italian Marines in the Enrica Lexie case will be closed only after the Republic of Italy deposits the compensation agreed to be paid to the victims of sea firing incident of 2012.

A bench headed by the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde directed that the Republic of Italy should deposit the compensation amount in terms of the award of the international tribunal in the account specified by the Ministry of External Affairs. Within a week of receiving such amount from the Italy Government, the Ministry should deposit the same before the Supreme Court, the bench further ordered.

Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta told the bench that the account number in which the amount has to be deposited will be informed to the Republic of Italy during the course of the day.

Senior Advocate Sohail Dutta, appearing for the Republic of Italy, agreed to deposit the compensation in the accounts specified by the Union Ministry as soon as the account number was informed.

The SG informed the Court that the families of the victims have consented to accept the Rs 10 crore compensation offered by the Government of Italy, over and above the ex-gratia payments already paid by Italy.

The SG read out a communication addressed by the Kerala Government to the Union Foreign Secretary in November last year stating that the victims have accepted the compensation offer.

The SG further submitted that the international tribunal has ruled that India has no jurisdiction to launch criminal prosecution against the Italian Marines, and that the same has to be done within Italian Jurisdiction.

"The difficulty is that the trial court cannot close the cases based on the international award. Only the Supreme Court can do that", the SG submitted. He added that the award of the Tribunal was binding on the India Government as it was a signatory to the international treaty.

Senior Advocate Jaideep Gupta, appearing for the State of Kerala, told the bench that the compensation offer was acceptable to the State Government as well. But Gupta requested the bench to impose a condition that the amounts should be deposited before the Supreme Court as there was no enforcement mechanism available.

As per the statement filed by the Centre, the Kerala Government has decided to disburse Rs 4 Crores each to the families of the two deceased fishermen and Rs 2 crores to the owner of the boat 'St Antony'. An amount of Rs 2.17 crores was earlier paid by Italy to the families.

Advocate C Unnikrishnan, appearing for Doramma, the widow of one of the deceased fishermen, urged that the cases should be quashed only after the compensation has been disbursed to the victims.

"We are asking the amounts to be deposited in this court. Only after that the cases will be closed", CJI assured Unnikrishnan.

In July last year, the Permanent Court of Arbitration(PCA) under the United Nations Convention of Law of Seas had ruled that India was entitled to claim compensation from Italy for the death of Indian fishermen. However, the International Tribunal also held that India has no jurisdiction to launch criminal prosecution against the Marines as they had sovereign immunity.

Following that, the Centre had informed the Supreme Court that it was accepting the award of the PCA and sought to quash the pending cases against the Marines.

In August last year, the Supreme Court had told the Centre that the cases will not be quashed without hearing the families of victims.

The incident happened on Febraury 15, 2012, at a distance of about 20.5 nautical miles from the Kerala coastline. A fishing boat 'St Antony' happened to pass "Erica Lexie", a tanker flying the Italian Flag. Two marines aboard the ship - Massimilano Latorre and Salvatore Girone - mistook 'St Antony' for a pirate boat, and opened fire at it. This resulted in the death of two fishermen - Valentine Jalastine and Ajesh Binki.

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