Italian Marines case: Govt to appoint central agency to deal with crime in high sea and territorial waters

Rahul Tripathi

Learning from its failure into the Italian Marines case, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is said to have started the process to identify a central agency to deal with such cases in the future. The case pertains to the arrest of two marines — Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone- in February 2012 off the Kerala coast, that led to a diplomatic tensions between India and Italy.

During the first round of discussion held recently, the names of National Investigation Agency (NIA), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Coast Guards have been proposed as the agencies which shall be given investigations of cases reported in territorial and international waters. According to Home Ministry officials, the mandate to conduct investigations under Suppression of Unlawful Act (SUA) is presently with the NIA but in cases of Somalian pirates, the state police have been carrying out investigations.

Said a senior home ministry official, “This has led to the confusion among agencies as CBI too has powers under¬† the maritime zones of India (regulation of fishing by foreign vessels) act, 1981.” The move also aims to create a date base of crime being committed in high waters and for this coast guard will be given additional powers. “It was also deliberated to raise a unit within coast guard which will be given training to investigate such crime,” said an official familiar with the developments.

The diplomatic row between India and Italy has led to embarrassment for the latter at the international level after it failed to expedite the trial of two Italian marines with Italy stressing for an international arbitration and maintaining that the incident took place in international water. The two marines, deployed on the Italian-flagged oil tanker MT Enrica Lexie, claimed that they mistook the fishermen for pirates. However, investigations by NIA had contradicted their stand and was firm on invoking stringent sections of SUA, which also had provisions of death penalty.

Later, under pressure, India had to remove the possibility of a death penalty but insisted that the marines would still be prosecuted under the anti-piracy law and may face up to 10 years in jail. The two were staying in the Italian Embassy in New Delhi.


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