The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to close all proceedings against the Italian marines in India, after Rs 10 crore compensation was deposited with the court, for disbursal amongst the family members of two Indian fishermen killed off the Kerala coast in February 2012. A division bench comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and MR Shah said it would pass orders in the matter on June 15. Tuesdayâ€™s orders will bring to a close the nearly 10-year-long case. In February 2012, two marines on board the MV Enrica Lexie -- an Italian flagged oil tanker -- were accused by India of killing two Indian fishermen who were on a fishing vessel in India's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The two Italian marines were Massimilano Latorre and Salvatore Girone and the incident happened off the Kollam coast in Kerala. The fishermen who were shot dead are Valentine a native of Thankassery in Kollam and Ajeesh Pinku, a native of Kanyakumari.
The apex court was hearing the application filed by the Union government that sought to close the criminal cases against the two Italian marines after accepting the compensation offered by Italy to the victims. The SC had in April stated that the Union government plea to close the case will only be considered after Italy deposits compensation amount. In August 2020 too, the SC had made it clear to the Union government that it would not pass any order on the plea seeking closure of cases without hearing the victims' families who should be given adequate compensation. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on Friday submitted the compensation of Rs 10 crore has been deposited with the court and it is up to the Kerala government to decide on apportionment of it.
The counsel for Italian government submitted that criminal proceedings pending before a Delhi court must also be dropped in terms of the award by the international tribunal. The Italian government had offered a compensation of Rs 10 crore, out of which Kerala government proposed to disburse Rs 4 crore, to the dependents of each deceased and Rs 2 crore to the owner of the fishing boat St Antony.Advocate KN Balagopal representing Kerala told the bench that the state government has accepted the agreement after verifying the consent of the relatives of the victims. It was Kerala that initially raised the issue of compensation being deposited with the apex court before the closure of the criminal trials.
Mehta submitted before the bench the tribunal held that Italy would reserve the right to prosecute the marines. "Both the Union of India and government of Kerala have accepted the tribunal's award", said Mehta.The bench pointed out Rs 4 crore isn't a small amount, and some appropriate measures will have to be taken to ensure the money isn't wasted. Mehta responded that money can be deposited in interest-bearing bank accounts for gradual withdrawal and accrual of adequate interest.
The top court suggested that the money can be transferred to the Kerala High Court which can monitor the aspect of disbursement to the families of the victims. The Union government and Italian government counsel urged the top court to close all proceedings and it can formalise the aspect of disbursement in its final order. The Italian government told the top court that it would prosecute the marines, as per the international tribunal order. The bench noted that it would pass an order on quashing the pending criminal case against the Italian marines in India.
The Kerala Police had in February 2012 registered a First Information Report against the marines and arrested them. The case was transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in April 2013 which invoked the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA). The SUA Convention was passed in 1988 with the goal of suppressing international terrorism.
With IANS inputs