Compensation, a goodwill gesture, Italy tells SC

Italy told SC that the payment of compensation amount of Rs one crore each was made purely as a "gesture of goodwill" to quickly help the families.

New Delhi: Facing flak for reaching a compromise with the kin of two fishermen killed by its marines, Italy on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the payment of compensation amount of Rs one crore each was made purely as a "gesture of goodwill" to quickly help the families.

The Italian Government meanwhile was granted a day`s time by the Supreme Court to spell out its stand for ensuring the presence of four seamen of its merchant navy ship `Enrica Lexie` in the country during the trial of the two marines involved in the killing of the fishermen off Kerala cost.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the Italian Government, sought time saying he needs instruction as several issues arose from the incident including whether Kerala Government and Union of India have jurisdiction over the row.

He said the action had allegedly taken outside the territorial waters of India and the dispute is between Republic of Italy and India and in such situation the question of giving undertaking under municipal law has been raised.

However, hours after the apex court put the matter for hearing tomorrow, the Italian Government, which has come under severe criticism for its attempt to reach a compromise with the kin of the fishermen, rushed to the court and claimed that the payment made as compensation to victims` families should not be seen as any interference with pending criminal matters.

The apparent damage control exercise was undertaken by the Italian Government in the wake of some tough talk by the apex court yesterday terming as "illegal" and "astonishing" the compromise reached by payment an amount of Rs 1 crore. The court had said the compromise defeated the Indian legal system and that Italy was "playing" with the process of law here.

"This compensation payment was made purely as a gesture of goodwill to immediately help the families to rebuild themselves. It should not be read out to be a settlement of claim," Salve told a bench comprising justices R M Lodha and H L Gokhale.

Advocates Diljeet Titus and Viplav Sharma, who were also appearing for the Italian Governemnt, said this statement was made before the Bench by Salve immediately after the lunch following his meeting with the officials of that country.

They said it was clarified to the bench that the compensation was not a settlement claim or any attempt to interfere with the criminal matters and the kin were free to pursue both civil and criminal remedies in the shooting incident.