SC reserves verdict on Italy's plea in fishermen killing

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its verdict on the Italian government's plea challenging the jurisdiction of Indian courts to try its two marines for allegedly gunning down two Indian fishermen off Kerala coast in February this year.

A bench of justices Altamas Kabir and J. Chelameswar, also recorded Kerala senior counsel V. Giri's submission that the state would not pursue the trial proceedings pending outcome of the apex court's judgement.

The counsel gave the assurance after senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for the Italian government, sought a stay on the trial of two naval officers, Chief Sargent Massimiliano Lattore and Sargent Salvatore Girone in a Kerala court.

The case pertains to the killing of two Indian fishermen allegedly by two Italian naval officers on board 'Enrica Lexie'.
Fearing a pirate attack, the two officers had allegedly fired at the fishermen' vessel off Kerala coast, killing two of them.

The Indian territorial waters extend up to 12 nautical miles.

The Italian government has contended that only the Military Court in Rome has the jurisdiction to prosecute the accused officers as only the Republic of Italy and its institutions (military and judicial) have the authority to deal with any inquiry and consequential legal proceedings against them.

It has assailed a Kerala High Court order dismissing its plea on the ground that it virtually held the marines guilty by using observations like ‘brutal murder,’ ‘Italian government did not act in a bonafide manner’.

Both the Centre led by Additional Solicitor General Gourab Banerjee and the Kerala government, however, argued that Indian courts had the territorial jurisdiction to deal with the case as the incident had occurred in its jurisdiction.

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