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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

the killing Marines of Italy aboard Enrica Lexie - India not to invoke stringent law

Not all followed or understood the implications; nor can one understand the expedient action of the Central Govt…. the Govt. told the Supreme Court that the law, which carries the death penalty, would not apply in the case. The accused will still be tried - but under less stringent criminal laws. Earlier, India's decision to use the anti-piracy law led to a diplomatic row with Italy. Last week, Rome recalled its ambassador to India over the issue. The Italian foreign ministry said Daniele Mancini would return home because of "yet another unacceptable, deliberate delay" after a hearing in the Supreme Court was postponed. The Italian government also asked the UN and European Union to intervene in the continuing dispute with India ~ and then came the Indian submission…

Public memory as usual is short lived.  If one recalls, on that ill-fated day of 15th Feb 2012,  two fishermen, Gelastine (45) and Ajesh Binki (25), were brought to Neendakara harbour late on the night and were taken to the Medical College Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram, for post mortem. Subsequently, Gelastine's body was taken to Kollam and buried on the morning of 17 February, while the body of the Ajesh Binki, was taken to Erayammanthurai in Tamil Nadu's Nagercoil district and buried. The Kerala government announced a solatium of Rs. 5 lakh to the families of each of the victims, while the Tamil Nadu government announced a solatium of Rs. 5 lakh to the family of Ajesh Binki.  Generally such deaths of fisherfolk would have appeared in an obscure column of newspaper and forgotten.

This was not to be – as they had been shot dead  by Italian naval guards from aboard oil tanker Enrica Lexie, and has been in the news all through these months.  There were also reports of  Italian authorities coming forward to settle the compensation claims. Indian police immediately opening a murder enquiry and later arresting two members of the Italian Navy security team over the shooting.  According to the Indian Coast Guard, Indian government sources and the crew of the fishing boat Saint Antony, when the fishing boat was returning from a fishing expedition, those on board the oil tanker shot them dead.  Enrica Lexie, is a Aframax tanker built in 2008 at Shanghai Waigaogiao, double hulled, Italy flagged, ABS classed – has LOA of 243 M, 14.82 draught bearing IMO no. 9489297.  Sure the ships transitting the Arabian sea are at high risk in the piracy infested waters but Horn of Africa and Gulf of Aden can never be classified in the same league alongside Kerala border.  Italians put forth the argument that notwithstanding the killing of Indian fishermen in their own soil, the arrest of the two mariners would hamper international fight against piracy.

Now after so many months, on Monday, Indian attorney general Ghoolam Vahanvati told the Supreme Court that the prosecution did not intend to proceed against Mr Latorre and Mr Girone under the anti-piracy section of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts (SUA). Mr Vahanvati did not give any reason. The men earlier were allowed to go to Italy for voting in the elections; now India has decided not to invoke anti-piracy law.  Italy demanded closure of case saying without SUA charges NIA has no jurisdiction to probe the case. The SC said it will examine if NIA or some other agency will handle the probe. The Apex Court referred Italy's plea for quashing of the case to a larger 3-judge bench. With Italy strongly opposing, India has gone soft in not invoking the tougher provisions of the law.

The punishment even when convicted would be less stringent now; the new Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, made it clear on Monday that the issue would remain a priority for his government, saying that he had made two "symbolic telephone calls" to the marines as one of his first acts as premier since his swearing-in on Saturday.  India had originally sought to prosecute the marines under the piracy law partly because the incident occurred outside the geographical area covered by the country's criminal code.

Italy marines - photo courtesy : BBC co uk

BBC report states that the  delays in filing charges, not unusual in India's notoriously slow legal system, spurred Italy to approach the supreme court last month demanding approval for the marines to return home and a block on any use of the anti-piracy law.

The two men deny killing anyone or aiming directly at the fishing boat. They are on bail but cannot leave India now ……  what looked complicated earlier ;;;; - the vessel an Italy flagged oil tanker; the men shot were innocent Indian fishermen; the place – shores of Kochi – men arrested Italian marines of the Reggimento San Marco, Marina Militare. Now legal wrangles are giving way and decision could be soon out….. and there are enough indicators as to which direction the case is heading for – thanks to powerful intervention of Italy Govt and numb submission of Indian authorities coupled with the delay.  

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

25th Feb 2014

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