New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday permitted two Italian marines, accused of killing two Indian fishermen last February after mistaking them for pirates, to go back to their country for four weeks to vote in the ongoing elections and meet their families.
Taking note of Italian government undertaking that two marines - Chief Master Sergeant Massimilano Latorre and Sergeant Salvatore Girone - would be kept under the "constant custody, supervision and control in Italy during this period", the court also sought additional undertaking from duo that they would submit to Indian legal authorities after these four weeks.
A bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice Anil R. Dave and Justice Vikramajit Sen, however, expressed displeasure over the failure of the government to set up a special court in pursuance of its Jan 18 directions to try two marines.
Taking exception that nothing had been done in last one month since the apex court passed its direction to set up the special court, Chief Justice Kabir said that had the court been set up, the trial in the case would have been over.
"If they are guilty, they are guilty. Otherwise they should be allowed to go back," he observed.
The apex court by bits Jan 18 verdict while holding that the Kerala government had no independent jurisdiction to try two Italian marines for shooting down two Indian fishermen, had ruled that it was only the central government that had the jurisdiction to hold their trial.
It said that the central government, in consultation with the chief justice, will set up a special court to hold the trial.
In its order, the apex court had said that the Italian government would be free to raise the question that it had the jurisdiction to conduct the trial of these two Italian marines in their country.
Recounting the sequence of events starting with the shooting of two fishermen Feb 15, 2012, and apex court by its Jan 18 verdict holding that Kerala had no jurisdiction to try them, the two marines in their application had said that "by the very nature of the things, it is likely to take some time for matter to move ahead in the present case".
Submitting that their credentials in submitting to Indian courts was beyond shadow, two marines noted that they had come back to India to face the legal proceedings after Kerala High court in a "human gesture" allowed them to visit their families for four weeks on the guarantee by the Italian government.
Their application said that if they were permitted to travel to Italy, they would be able to "exercise their right to vote in their home town" for the general elections that would take place Feb 24-25.
The marines said that on the expiry of four weeks they would return to India to face legal proceedings. They contended that no prejudice would be caused to Indian government in the case if they were allowed to travel to their country.