Italy tells HC Kerala police has no jurisdiction

Italy made a conditional offer to cooperate in the probe into ballistic examination of the weapons used.

Kochi: Italy told the Kerala High Court on Thursday that the state police had no jurisdiction to investigate its two naval marines charged with killing of two Indian fishermen but it made a conditional offer to cooperate in the probe into
ballistic examination of the weapons used.

A Kollam court meanwhile extended the police custody of the two marines till March one. The naval guards have been in police custody since their arrest on Sunday.

The Italian stand amid the diplomatic row with India was articulated by visiting Deputy Foreign Minister Stefan de Mistura here and its counsel before the Kerala High Court which asked why that country was not cooperating. The Court
admitted a petition filed by the Italian Government seeking to quash the FIR against the two marines.

With India not relenting on Italy`s demand that the case be taken out of a Kerala court, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said any decision on how to pursue the case against the two accused should be left to the Centre and Kerala government.

Mistura spoke of the conditional cooperation after meeting the two Marines Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone at the CISF Guest House at Wellington here.

"We will cooperate for the ballistic examination, but we should also be present. Hope it will bring out justice" Mistura told reporters.

The Kollam court on February 21 had permitted police to search the Italian ship Enrica Lexie to seize the arms allegedly used by the two onboard naval guards to shoot and kill the two Indian fishermen last Wednesday.

"We stick to our stand that the vessel was in international waters when the incident took place. It was 22.5 nautical miles of Kollam coast," Mistura said.

The petition filed before the High Court by Italian Consul General in Mumbai Gian Paolo Cutillo and the two accused also sought a stay on all further proceedings in the case.

They 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 the Indian territorial waters.

Justice PS Gopinathan, before whom the petition of the Italian side came up, asked the Consul General`s counsel why they were not cooperating with the investigation. "Why don`t you cooperate with the investigation?," the court asked the counsel.

The counsel responded saying the Kerala police had no jurisidiction to investigate the case.

The court then granted time till next week to the central and state governments to file their counter affidavits.

State Director General of Prosecutions T Asaf Ali informed the court that the killing of the two Indian fishermen was a `brutal murder`.

The recovery of the weapons, used for the killing, had not been effected so far, he said.

Assistant Solicitor General V Parameshwaran Nair requested the court to implead Coast Guard as additional respondent in the case.

The court said since the Union of India was a party in the proceedings, all departments are under it.

Meanwhile, Abhinaya Xavier (17) and Aguna Xavier (15), sisters of Ajesh Binki (25), one of the two fishermen killed by the marines, moved the high court seeking Rs two crore compensation.

They said the amount can be raised by selling the vessel through the high court registrar.

Doramma, wife Jelestine alias Valentine (45), another fisherman killed, had already filed a petition in the high court seeking Rs one crore compensation.