Former Italian defence minister Giampaolo Di Paolo (C) with Italian marines Massimiliano Latorre (L) and Salvatore Girone (R), accused of murdering two Indian fishermen in february 2012. (Photo by STRDEL/AFP via Getty Images)
THE Supreme Court of India on Tuesday (15) ordered the closure of domestic criminal proceedings against two Italian marines who have been accused of killing two fishermen off the coast of South Indian state of Kerala in February 2012. It also asked the state’s high court to oversee the apportionment Rs 10 crore ($1.3 million) to the victims’ heirs. A vacation bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and MR Shah quashed the FIR and proceedings emanating from the case against the two Italian marines.
According to the bench, the international arbitral award accepted by India says Italy shall resume further probe in the case against the two marines – Massimilano Latorre and Salvatore Girone. The Indian apex court termed the compensation of Rs 10 crore paid by Italy over and above the payment already made as “reasonable and adequate”. It added that out of the compensation amount, Rs 4 crore ($545,000 plus) each shall be deposited in the name of the heirs of the two deceased Kerala fishermen while the remaining Rs 2 crore ($272,000 plus) shall be given to the owner of the boat St Antony.
The Supreme Court also said that Rs 10 crore deposited in its registry shall be transferred to the Kerala High Court, which will make a fixed deposit of Rs 4 crore each in the name of the heirs of the two deceased fishermen for some time. The bench also said the fishermen’s heirs could withdraw the interest amount during the period of fixed deposit of the compensation money, so there is no possibility of misappropriation of the entire money.
In February 2012, India had accused the two marines aboard the MV Enrica Lexie – an oil tanker with the Italian flag – of killing the two fishermen who were on a fishing vessel in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Last week, the Supreme Court said it would pass orders on closure of the proceedings against the marines.
Rs 4 cr each to heirs of deceased fishermen
Earlier, the apex court was informed by the government of Kerala that Rs 4 crore each would be given to the heirs of two deceased fishermen and the rest Rs 2 crore would be paid to the owner of the vessel.
The Supreme Court said that it was of the view that the compensation money be transferred to the Kerala High Court for disbursal and ensure that the amount is not wasted. India’s central government had told the top court that Italy had deposited Rs 10 crore with it over and above the ex-gratia paid earlier and the same has been deposited by India’s Ministry of External Affairs with the Supreme Court’s registry as directed.
“There was an award by International Tribunal, which we as a Nation have accepted. The agreement is among Republic of Italy, India and the Kerala government,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had said. He added the dispute before the international tribunal was as to which of the two countries — Italy or India — has the jurisdiction to prosecute the marines and it was decided that both have the “concurrent jurisdiction”. “But based on facts it was decided that India would not pursue the criminal case and proceedings would be started in Italy,” he said. The Centre has also told the top court that Italy has assured India that it would prosecute the marines there as per law and that maximum compensation will be given to the victims’ kin.