Italian ship's release difficult unless commitment on marines: Court

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that if the Italian government can't ensure the presence of its four marines presently aboard Enrica Lexie as and when required by either by police or the trial court to tender evidence, then it would be difficult for the vessel to sail out of a Kerala port.

"If the Republic of Italy has any difficulty in ensuring the presence before the investigating officer or the trial court of the four marines, then things would stand as they are," a bench of Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice H.L. Gokhale said.

The court said that the 'proceedings before the trial court should not be defeated or impeded by the absence of these four marines'.

Harish Salve, who appeared for the Italian government, told the court that he has yet to get full instruction and clarifications from the ministers of the Italian government and would not like to say anything with if and buts whose implications are concealed.

He said that he could not take one position now and then back out at a subsequent stage.

Salve said that the position of Italian government on the question of sovereign immunity and the jurisdiction of Indian court had to be stated in an unambiguous terms.

He told the court that Indian courts can decided on the alleged offence committed by the two marines but first the apex court should decide the question of sovereign rights of the republic of Italy.

At this the court asked him if that was the position, then why did the Italian government implead itself in two admiralty pleas before the court in Kerala. "Nobody had asked you to do that," Justice Lodha pointed out.

Salve's arguments came in the afternoon when the case was taken up again for the hearing. Earlier, the matter was adjourned till 12.30 p.m. when it told that the Italian government would convey its final decision by the afternoon.

The matter was directed to be listed for Wednesday morning after Salve said that Italian Minister would be confirming their position only later.

These are four other marines who are still on board the ship Enrica Lexie and could be required by the investigating officer probing the killing of two Indian fishermen by two of their colleagues.

Two Italian marines currently in judicial custody for shooting two fishermen Feb 15 are Marines Chief Master Sergeant Massimilano Latorre and Sergeant Salvatore Girone.

The two marines are in judicial custody since February 20 and are currently lodged at the Thiruvananthapuram Central Prison.

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