New Delhi: Amid increased diplomatic pressure from Italy, India stood its ground on Wednesday and reiterated that its law would hold precedence in the case of killing of two Indian fishermen allegedly by Italian naval guards off the Kerala coast last week.
Speaking to reporters here after meeting visiting Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan De Mistura, who rushed to the national capital this morning, Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur accepted the difference of opinion between the two sides but, importantly, denied any agreement between India and Italy on the matter.
“Our law will take its own course in the matter,” the MoS said.
Kaur said she assured Mistura that the Indian judiciary is very fair and free and would take the right decision on the incident.
According to the MoS, the Italian minister expressed regret over the incident and offered condolences to the families of the two fishermen.
Mistura is likely to visit Kerala today to meet authorities there. He is also likely to call on External Affairs Minister SM Krishna later in the day.
Italy rushed its deputy foreign minister for talks, to be followed by the visit of Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi on February 28, after New Delhi made it clear that it will go by its legal process.
Italy has demanded that the two Marines, currently in Kerala police’s custody, be tried by an international court.
Mistura will "continue on a political level the action so far carried out by a delegation of experts from the Italian Foreign, Defence and Justice Ministries", the Foreign Ministry in Rome said. "Minister Terzi will visit personally next Tuesday," it added.
Ajesh Binki, 25, and Gelastine, 45, were mistaken for pirates and shot dead by the Marines from the Italian cargo vessel on February 15, off Alappuzha in Kerala.
HC to hear petitions
Meanwhile, Italy raised the pitch over the killing of two Indian fishermen by its marines escalated by moving the Kerala High Court seeking quashing of murder charges against them and its visiting envoy demanding that truth be ascertained.
The family of Gelastine yesterday filed a petition in the High Court seeking a compensation of Rs 1 crore. The plea said the ship should not be allowed to leave Indian waters till the relief was paid.
A second petition on the incident was filed by A Basil, demanding that adequate compensation should be given to the family of the two fishermen.
Dolphin Tankers, the owners of the Italian cargo vessel, also filed a petition in the High Court that no fresh arrests should be made without hearing their version.
The Marines - Latorre Massimillano and Salvatore Girone - also moved the Kerala HC today to quash the first information report (FIR) charging them with the murder of two Indian fishermen at sea.
Reports further indicated that the Italian consulate may file a petition on Wednesday in the Kerala HC pointing out that since the incident took place in international waters, the case could not be tried in any court other than an international court of law.
Dispute over location of crime
Italian Foreign Minister Terzi had a telephonic chat with Krishna on Monday and insisted that the Italian ship was in international waters at the time the Marines opened fire, killing two Indian fishermen. Its location is a matter of dispute between the two countries.
India contests Italy`s version and says any incident involving an Indian or an Indian vessel is subject to Indian law. "We have made it very clear to them (Italy) that as representatives of India, we will go by our legal process. Of course, there are differences of opinions," a government source said.
New Delhi has also stressed that the incident is at the stage of investigation, and Italy is free to present any issue of judicial nature through its legal counsel in the court, said the sources.
India has also conveyed to Italy that the arrested Marines could get consular access.
The two Italian Marines were picked up from the vessel on Sunday and arrested. A court near Kollam on Monday sent them to 14 days in custody, with the police given the first three days to interrogate them.
The Kollam chief judicial magistrate earlier gave Kollam police, who have taken over the investigation, a search warrant to look for the murder weapon on the Italian cargo vessel from where the two Marines fired.