New Delhi: Government on Tuesday asserted in Lok Sabha that the UN arbitration tribunal's order allowing a murder-accused Italian marine to return home from India pending its proceedings has "affirmed" the Supreme Court's authority and not questioned it.
Making a statement, Minister for Information and Broadcasting and Finance Arun Jaitley said the tribunal has confirmed Italy's obligation to return Sergeant Girone to India in case India's jurisdiction over him is established.
The tribunal has also left it to the Supreme Court to fix precise conditions of his bail, he said amid unhappiness expressed by Congress over the way the case is being handled by the government.
"We see the tribunal's order not just as a recognition of India's consistent positions and key arguments but also as an affirmation of the authority of the Supreme Court of India," said Jaitley, speaking on behalf of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who is unwell.
Congress members, including Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, staged a walkout, expressing unhappiness after Speaker Sumitra Mahajan did not allow them to ask questions.
Their protests invited criticism from Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu who accused Congress of doing so because of the Assembly polls in Kerala as media would cover it even though the Speaker has expunged their remarks. "It's match-fixing," he said.
The two Italian marines are accused of killing two fishermen of Kerala four years back.
Jaitley said the issue of jurisdiction, which is "at the heart" of the case, is yet to be even argued before the tribunal and the "limited relief" given on humanitarian considerations has been made contingent to the clear cut undertakings provided by Italy that Girone will return to India in case its jurisdiction is established.
"The tribunal noted that while Italy had earlier made a far-reaching request that, if granted, would have removed Sergeant Girone entirely from the reach of India's legal system. This time Italy was only requesting India to relax the bail conditions to enable him to return to Italy.
"In doing so, Italy was prepared to accept that he remained under the jurisdiction of the courts if India. In essence, they proposed to change the physical location of Sergeant Girone's bail without prejudice to the authority of India's courts," he said.