Taking note of the deposit of Rupees 10 crores compensation made by the Republic of Italy, the Supreme Court on Friday reserved orders on the application field by the Central Government to quash the criminal proceedings pending in India against two Italian Marines -Massimilano Latorre and Salvatore Girone - with respect to the 2012 sea-firing incident near Kerala coast which killed two Indian fishermen.
The Court said that orders will be passed on Tuesday.
A division Bench of Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice MR Shah was hearing the application filed by the Centre seeking to close the criminal cases against the two Italian Marines in India, after accepting the compensation of Rupees 10 crores offered by Italy to the victims of the 2012 sea-firing incident at international waters off Kerala coast.
Solicitor General of India Mr.Tushar Mehta informed the bench that Republic of Italy has deposited the compensation amount with the Union Government, and the Union has deposited the same amount before the Supreme Court registry as per the earlier direction of the Court.
The SG said that the question of apportionment of the compensation amount remains, as Kerala Government has expressed a view that the people who got injured in the incident also need to be compensated, and not just the two people who got killed. "It is for the Kerala Government to apportion the amount", the Solicitor General said.
Senior Advocate Sohail Dutta, appearing for the Republic of Italy, requested the bench to pass an order to quash the criminal proceedings pending against the two Italian Marines, in terms of the award of the International Tribunal.
The SG informed the bench that as per the award of the Tribunal, the jurisdiction for criminal prosecution is with Italy and not with India.
During the hearing, the bench expressed concerns about how to apportion and disburse the compensation.
Senior Advocate KN Balagopal, representing the State of Kerala, told the bench that the state government has accepted the agreement after verifying the consent of the heirs of the victims.
The bench observed that it might order the transfer of the Rs.10 crores compensation to the High Court of Kerala to decide the apportionment of the amount among the victims and its disbursement.
The Supreme Court had on April 9th 2021 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.
The Court had directed the Republic of Italy to deposit the compensation amount in terms of the award of the international tribunal in the account specified by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry was asked to deposit the same before the Supreme Court, within a week of receiving such amount from the Italy Government.
The Centre had previously told the Supreme Court that according to ruling of Permanent Court if Arbitration under the United Nations Convention On Law of Seas, India has no jurisdiction to launch criminal prosecution against the Italian Marines over the sea-firing incident. Therefore, the Solicitor General had requested the Supreme Court to quash the cases invoking powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, as the trial court cannot act on the international award.
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 "Enrica 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.