The Home Ministry is likely to deny sanction to prosecute two Italian marines accused of killing two Kerala fishermen under a law which provides only death penalty.
If the Home Ministry denies sanction to NIA to prosecute the two Italian marines under the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act (SUA), the case will go back to the Kerala Police and the accused will be tried under IPC.
Under SUA, if anyone causes death, he or she will be awarded only death penalty but India has already assured Italy that the offence would not warrant death under established jurisprudence.
Official sources said the Home Ministry was mulling over two options — outright rejection of National Investigation Agency’s plea for sanction to prosecute the two marines under SUA or informing the court that the murder of two Kerala fishermen could not be considered as a scheduled offence.
The Supreme Court has handed over the probe to NIA, which under law, is mandated to probe only scheduled offences.
Accused Italian marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who were on board Italian vessel ‘Enrica Lexie’ and are now lodged in New Delhi’s Italy Embassy premises, allegedly shot dead the two fishermen on February 15, 2012.
NIA completed its probe after questioning various witnesses including four Italian marines, who were witness to the incident, through video conferencing after their refusal to come to India.
The Supreme Court had shifted the case to Delhi, saying Kerala Police have no jurisdiction over it and backed the government’s decision to hand over the case to NIA.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde had recently chaired a high-level meeting to discuss NIA’s request seeking sanction to prosecute the two Italian marines.
The meeting, attended by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Law Minister Kapil Sibal, looked into various ways through which a solution could be found.
Italian government today approached the Supreme Court challenging invocation of anti-terrorism law against its two marines, saying it “would tantamount to the Republic of Italy being termed a terrorist state”.
The petition, which will be taken up by the Supreme Court on January 20, also sought a direction to the Centre and NIA to expedite the proceedings in the case or discharge the marines on the ground of the delay in trial.
The petition also challenged invoking of SUA saying it is against the order of the apex court which allowed proceedings only under the Maritime Zone Act, IPC, CrPC and UNCLOS.
“Invoking the anti-terrorism SUA Act would tantamount to the Republic of Italy being termed a terrorist state and acts of its organs, which were in repression of piracy, as being deemed as acts of terrorism, which is wholly untenable and unacceptable in the facts and circumstances of this case and in keeping with the comity of nations and international cooperation,” the petition said.