Centre draws flak for ASG's submission in Italian ship case

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The UPA government at the Centre has come under sharp attack from various quarters in Kerala over Additional Solicitor General Harin Raval's submission in the Supreme Court that Italian ship Enrica Lexie was not within Indian territorial waters when the marines aboard it had allegedly shot dead two Indian fishermen on February 15.

Seizing on the development, the critics said ASG's submission amounted to reinforcing Italy's assertion that Indian courts had no jurisdiction to try the case since the alleged incident happened when the ship was in international waters.

The family of the deceased fisherman Valentine Jalastine, the Latin Catholic Church and fishery unions have expressed shock and anguish at the position taken by the Centre's legal officer when the case came up for consideration in the apex court yesterday.

The ruling Congress-led UDF in the state also found itself in a bind as ASG's submission contradicted the stand of the government headed by Oommen Chandy which firmly held that India has every legal competence to try the case under its law.

Reacting to the development, Chandy who was in New Delhi yesterday, said he would bring the matter to the notice of the Central leaders as the state had always taken the position that the victims should receive justice.

The ruling front leaders, who were the target of attack from the opposition, however, drew some solace from the clarification issued by the Ministry of Shipping later in the evening that the views expressed by Harin Raval were his personal opinion.

Spearheading the no-holds-barred attack on the Centre, CPI(M) stalwart V S Achuthanandan said the submission made by ASG was nothing short of a betrayal of the country and people.

In their statements, leaders of various other opposition parties made veiled digs at the Congress president and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi over the development and accused the state government of playing a double game.

Reacting to the development, family members of the slain fisherman Jalastine termed the ASG's submission in the apex court as 'cruel'.

Doramma and Derirk Valentine, the deceased fisherman's wife and son, respectively, said in Kollam that it was difficult for them to understand as how the Centre could taken such a U-turn in the case after expressing solidarity with the bereaved families.

Slamming the Centre's position, Archbishop Soosai Packyan of Latin Catholic community, to which both the murdered fishermen belonged, said he was at a loss to know as to why the Centre had taken such a position in the case.

Talking to reporters, the Archbishop said it was the duty of the central and state governments to ensure that the kin of victims received justice.

The two fishermen were killed when the marines Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Gironi allegedly fired at their boat off Kollam coast. They were arrested on February 19 and charged with murder.

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