The National Investigation Agency (NIA) Wednesday opposed the plea of the two Italian Marines, allegedly involved in killing two Indian fishermen in 2012, for exemption from personal court appearance on the ground that a charge sheet has not been filed.
Marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone were arrested for killing two Indian fisherman off the coast of Kerala in February 2012, taking their fishing boat for a pirate vessel.
The two are currently on bail, pending trial, and are living and working at the Italian embassy in New Delhi.
Additional Solicitor General Siddharth Luthra, appearing for the NIA, told Additional Sessions Judge Dharmesh Sharma that exemption from personal appearance in court cannot be granted on the ground that the charge sheet has not been filed in this case.
However, the court allowed the marines’ exemption application, and fixed the matter for further hearing Jan 30.
The court said: “Without going into the merits of the applications (of the marines), the accused are exempted from personal appearance for today (Wednesday).”
Defence counsel of the marines told the court there were certain “legal issues” which need to be addressed before the court decides on the aspect of custody of the accused.
Luthra argued that this court derives jurisdiction from the Supreme Court’s order and exemption on the ground that charge sheet has not been filed is not tenable. He told the court that the marines were in custody of the Supreme Court, as per its order.
The Supreme Court Jan 18, 2013, said that till such time as the special court is set up, the Marines will be under the custody of the apex court.
The court last month issued notice against Marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone and asked them to appear before it Jan 8.
The court order came on a plea filed by the NIA, which requested the court to take steps for it to get custody of the two accused.
The marines, posted on board oil tanker MV Enrica Lexie on security duty, had opened fire at a fishing boat, suspecting that it carried pirates. Two fishermen, Ajesh Binki and Gelastine, were killed in the firing.
Italian officials say the Marines merely fired warning shots into the sea in the direction of the fishermen’s boat.
Italy disputes India’s jurisdiction over the case, claiming the incident took place in international waters.
The case sparked a major diplomatic row between the two countries when Rome refused to return Latorre and Girone to New Delhi after the Supreme Court last year allowed them to go home to vote in national elections.
The two later returned to India within the stipulated time limit.