New Delhi, (IANS) The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the second Italian marine, Salvatore Girone, under probe for the shooting of two Indian fishermen, return home till international arbitration goes on in the case that has soured bilateral ties between the two countries.
The bench of Justice Prafulla C. Pant and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud relaxed earlier bail conditions for Girone after the Indian government’s “no objection” to the move.
Girone, who is at present housed at the Italian embassy premises in Delhi, and fellow Italian marine Massimiliano Latorre allegedly shot dead two fishermen off the Kerala coast while they were security detail on board oil tanker Enrica Lexie in February 2012, mistaking them for pirates.
Latorre was granted permission to go home in 2014 when he suffered a stroke in India. The apex court recently allowed an extension of his home stay till September 30.
But in Kerala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan expressed displeasure and accused the BJP-led central government of mishandling the case and allowing the marine to leave India.
“We have made our position clear right from the time this incident occurred. The Centre never pursued the case the way it should have been taken up, and hence this happened,” said Vijayan.
The Italian foreign ministry in Rome said it was satisfied with the Indian court’s decision. “Girone might be going home any day now,” the ministry said, adding the Italian government “renews its commitment to comply with the terms and conditions established by the Supreme Court”.
The court granted the marine permission to leave after adding fresh bail conditions proposed by Additional Solicitor General P. S. Narasimha.
These include Girone, who will remain under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, will have to report to police station in Italy on first Wednesday of every month and the Indian embassy in Rome will have to be informed about it. The court also asked the marine not to tamper with any evidence or influence any witness.
Besides, the court said the Italian ambassador in New Delhi will give a fresh undertaking that Girone shall be made to return to India in one month after the decision of the International Arbitral Tribunal and if the Indian Supreme Court required by it. The marine was also asked to surrender his passport when he arrives in Italy.
Narasimha told the court that the central government has “no objection” against the plea moved by the Italian government last week if Girone complies with the fresh bail conditions.
“We support the application on humanitarian grounds subject to his compliance with the conditions imposed by the court,” the assistant solicitor general said.
The court decision comes in the wake of April 29 order of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) asking India and Italy to cooperate in relaxing the bail conditions of Girone so that he could return to his country during the pendency of the arbitration proceedings before it.
The tribunal is holding an international arbitration to decide the question of jurisdiction between India and Italy as to who will try the two Italian marines for the murder of the fishermen during an anti-piracy mission.
The case had triggered a diplomatic row between India and Italy even as the two countries last year agreed to move to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and abide by its decisions.
Italy argues that the marines should have immunity as they were servicemen working on a mission and that India does not have jurisdiction as the incident took place outside its territorial waters.
The Indian government has continuously rejected the Italian foreign ministry’s claims.