Kochi: Questioning the jurisdiction of Indian courts and police, the Italian government and two naval guards of an oil tanker on Wednesday moved the Kerala High Court seeking quashing of the FIR charging the marines with murder of two fishermen while firing from the ship off the state coast.
As the diplomatic row between the countries continued since the February 15 incident, Italian Consul General in Mumbai Gian Paolo Cutillo and the two accused – Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone - filed the petition seeking to quash the FIR registered by Kollam police in Kerala.
The petitioners submitted that Kerala Police have no authority to conduct investigation in the case and courts in India have no jurisdiction as the incident occurred beyond its territorial waters.
The marines, suspected to have shot dead the fishermen, took the legal recourse two days after they were arrested by the state police capping four days of hectic negotiations between Indian and Italian officials on the issue of submitting them to Indian authorities.
Italy has been maintaining that the incident occurred outside Indian territorial waters and the marine’s action was taken assuming the fishing vessel to be carrying pirates.
In a related development, the court admitted a petition by the family of one of the deceased fishermen seeking Rs 1 crore compensation and directed the owners of Italian vessel Enrica Lexie to furnish a bank guarantee of Rs 25 lakh.
Justice Harun-UL-Rasheed admitted the petition by Doramma Valentine, wife of Valentine alias Jelstine (45), and issued notices to the ship owners, accused, and Cochin Port authorities.
The high court directed the port authorities to ensure that the ship is arrested in the port till the bank guarantee was furnished.
Valentine`s counsel insisted on a bank guarantee for Rs 1 crore but the court turned it down and limited it to Rs 25 lakh. He complained that the in the eyes of the ship owners, Indian citizen will not have much value.
The petitioner, who sought the compensation from the ship`s owners, captain and the two marines, had submitted she did not have Rs 8, 18,400 to pay as court fees required under section 22 of the Kerala Court Fee and Suit Valuation Act and should be declared as pauper.
The shipping company objected to the petitioner`s plea to waive the stamp duty after declaring them as pauper. Valentine also filed an application seeking exemption from appearing in the court to present the petition.
The petitioner`s counsel informed the court that the last rites of her husband were underway and the family was in a state of shock and was not in a position to appear today.
The ship owners` counsel contended that they had to pay Rs 30 lakh per day for three days as demurrage charges to the port. The vessel is berthed in the outer port area with Coastguard and Police keeping a close watch.