SC allows Italian marine Massimiliano Latorre to stay back home

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New Delhi: India’s top court ruled on Wednesday that a second Italian marine accused of killing two fishermen can stay in his home country pending a ruling on whether he should be tried in New Delhi. 

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The apex court said all the conditions, which were imposed on the other marine, Salvatore Girone, will be applicable on Latorre as well. A bench headed by Justice AR Dave added another condition and aksed the Union government to submit to the apex court a report every three months about the progress of the case at the international arbitral tribunal, which will take a decision on which country had the right to try the case.

The bench, also comprising Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Amitava Roy, passed the order after the Centre placed before it a written affidavit, saying it had no objection to Latorre’s plea, provided the same conditions were imposed on him as was done in the case of the other marine. During the brief hearing, senior advocate KN Balagopal, appearing for the Kerala government, raised some objections on the plea.

Senior advocate Rana Mukharjee, appearing for the victims’ family, said it was unlikely that the matter will conclude before the tribunal by 2018 or 2020 and claimed that the game plan was to drag the case. The court’s direction came on a fresh plea by Italy seeking modification of bail conditions of Latorre to enable him remain in that country till the jurisdictional issue is decided by the international tribunal.

The apex court on September 8 had decided to hear Italy’s plea on behalf of Latorre who had sought urgent hearing on the ground that an earlier court order was valid till September 30 this year. While relaxing Girone’s bail conditions on May 26, the apex court had allowed him to go to his country till the jurisdictional issue was decided. The apex court had imposed four conditions on Girone including that he has to report to a police station in Italy on the first Wednesday of each month and the Italian authorities have to inform the Indian Embassy in Rome about it.

The second condition was that he will not tamper with any evidence, nor influence any witness in the case. The third condition was that Girone will give an undertaking that he will remain under the jurisdiction of Supreme Court and lastly, if found violating any of these conditions, his bail will be cancelled, the court had said.

The marines, who were aboard the Italian-flagged commercial oil tanker ‘Enrica Lexie’, are accused of killing two Indian fishermen off Kerala coast on February 15, 2012. The complaint against the marines was lodged by Freddy, the owner of fishing boat ‘St Antony’ in which the two Kerala fishermen were killed when the marines opened fire on them allegedly under the misconception that they were pirates.

On April 26, the apex court had extended till September 30 the stay of Latorre in Italy after it was informed that the international arbitral proceedings will be completed by December 2018 before International Tribunal for Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Germany. The apex court had also asked the Italian Embassy to give an undertaking to abide by the conditions under which Latorre was allowed to leave India.

The court had earlier stayed all criminal proceedings, including the trial of the two marines. While allowing the joint request of India and Italy, the apex court had said the proceedings will remain stalled till the jurisdictional issue about which country has the right to conduct trial was decided through international arbitration.

The apex court had on August 26, 2015 suspended all court proceedings in pursuance of an interim order of the ITLOS asking India to maintain “status quo” in the case. The Indian government had then said a five-member tribunal (ITLOS Annex VII arbitral tribunal) would be set up, probably to decide the issue of jurisdiction. The court, in August last year, had extended the stay of Latorre, who had undergone a heart surgery in Italy, by six months while asking him to file an undertaking that he would abide by its conditions.

Latorre, who had also suffered a brain stroke on August 31, 2014, was allowed by the apex court on September 12, 2014 to go to Italy for four months and after that, extensions have been granted to him.

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