NEW DELHI: The home ministry, mindful that applying the Suppression of¬†Unlawful Actsagainst Safety of Maritime Navigation Act (SUA) – which lays down death penalty for murder at sea — in the¬†Italian marines¬†case could have “far-reaching implications for diplomatic ties and implementation of international maritime conventions”, is treading cautiously on¬†NIA’s request¬†for sanction to prosecute the two marines under SUA. The ministry, sources said, is likely to seek the attorney general’s opinion in the matter.
Senior¬†home ministry¬†officials said invoking Section 3(g) of SUA against the two marines, Salvatorre Girone and¬†Massimiliano Latorre, would entail death penalty in the event of their conviction. “This may not only impact our ties with Italy, given external affairs minister Salman Khurshid’s earlier assurance to Rome that the marines’ offence did not warrant death penalty, but also set a precedent for similar cases involving security personnel aboard foreign vessels,” an officer said.
“The SUA Act owes its origins to¬†the Vienna Convention, and was envisioned to deal with maritime terror/piracy. It is complex to apply it in a murder case… it could impact our diplomatic and maritime ties,” the official added.
The NIA, which is investigating the Italian marines case, had, while re-registering the FIR lodged earlier by¬†Kerala Police, charged them under Section 302 and 307 of IPC (murder/attempt to murder) as well as SUA.¬†SUA figures¬†in the schedule of offences laid down in the¬†NIA¬†Act.
Incidentally, sources in the NIA clarified that even if the charges under SUA do not reflect in the chargesheet, its jurisdiction over the case will be unaffected as the NIA Act mandates it to investigate offences related to friendly relations with foreign states as well as offences under Acts enacted to implement international treaties, agreements, conventions and resolutions of the United Nations. Besides, an NIA officer claimed, an investigative agency is free to drop or add fresh charges depending on outcome of the probe.