New Delhi: The Supreme Court today ordered the release of Italian merchant navy ship Enrica Lexie which was seized after two of its marines had allegedly killed two Indian fishermen off Kerala coast in February this year.
The apex court also allowed four marines and six crew members on board it to leave Indian shores after the Italian government and the ship owner assured it that they will be available when required by Indian legal authorities.
A bench headed by Justice R M Lodha directed the ship owner to execute a bond of Rs three crore before the registrar general of the Kerala High Court as a surety for the presence of crew members and the vessel whenever required by the Indian authorities.
The bench directed that the crew members should be made themselves available before the authorities within five weeks after receiving summons or notice.
It also directed that the vessel be brought before the legal authorities within seven weeks after receiving summons or notice.
The bench, however, made it clear that its order would not affect the right of the Kerala government to conduct the investigation and the prosecution of two marines accused of killing two fishermen.
The apex court had earlier termed Italy`s compromise with the kin of two Indian fishermen shot dead by its marines, as "illegal" and "astonishing" and had said that they were "playing" with the Indian process of law and felt Kerala should have filed an objection.
The bench said the mouths of the families of the two victims - Jalastine and Binki - have been "locked" by the Italian government by paying each an amount of Rs 1 crore, defeating the Indian legal system.
Counsel for Kerala Government had said it would not oppose release of the ship provided stringent conditions, including bank guarantee, adequate bond and security were imposed on the marines to secure their presence during trial as charge sheet would be filed in another 15 days.
Earlier on April 23, another bench of the apex court had sought replies of the Centre and the Kerala government on Italian government`s plea to quash the criminal cases against its two merchant navy personnel.
In its petition filed under Article 32, the Italian government had asserted that the Kerala Government has no locus standi to register any criminal case as the alleged offence ought to be treated under international law and covenants as India is a signatory to the UN charter.
With PTI inputs