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Italian marines case: will close trial only after victims’ kin get ‘hefty’ compensation, says SC

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Italian marines case: will close trial only after victims’ kin get ‘hefty’ compensation, says SC:


Context:

The Supreme Court has refused to pass any order on the Centre’s plea seeking closure of cases against two Italian marines, who are facing charges of killing two Indian fishermen in February 2012.

What has the Court said?

  • The court said it would not pass any order without hearing the victims’ families who should be given adequate compensation.
  • The Court insisted that it will close their criminal trial in India only after the victims’ families are heard and paid a “hefty” and “adequate” compensation.

Background:

On July 3, the Centre moved the top court seeking closure of judicial proceedings in India against the two Italian marines, arguing that it has accepted the recent ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at the Hague, which held that India is entitled to get compensation in the case but can’t prosecute the marines due to official immunity enjoyed by them.

What had the tribunal held?

In a close 3:2 vote, the tribunal ruled that the Italian marines enjoyed diplomatic immunity as Italian state officials under the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea.

  • Taking note of the “commitment expressed by Italy” to resume its criminal investigation into the incident, the tribunal said India must cease to exercise its jurisdiction.

What’s the issue now?

The award passed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration is in conflict with the Supreme Court judgment in 2013. This verdict upheld the authority of the Union of India to prosecute the Marines.

  • So, an international award which is in conflict with a domestic law, notwithstanding India’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas, can be implemented only if it is made into law under Article 253 of the Constitution”.

What next?

  1. The court asked the Centre to negotiate a “hefty” compensation with Italy.
  2. The court ordered the Centre to implead the victims’ families in the case within a week.

Overview of the marines’ case:

In 2012, two Italian marines fired shots while on-board an Italian vessel, Enrica Lexie killing two Indian fishermen aboard an Indian vessel, St. Anthony.

But, the fishing vessel was within the country’s Contiguous Zone and it was quite clear that the offence warranted arrest and prosecution under domestic law.

  • Eventually, the marines were arrested. But, further the marines were released from India and sent to Italy.
  • At that time, India had set up a specially designated court, as ordered by Indian Supreme Court, to determine the applicability of jurisdiction.
  • Meanwhile, the National Investigation Agency invoked the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, 2002.
  • The dispute between the two countries as regards which country will try the two marines went before the PCA.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. PCA- composition, functions and members.
  2. What is UNCLOS?
  3. Articles 87, 90 and 100 of UNCLOS are related to?
  4. About International Tribunal for Law of the Sea (ITLOS).
  5. What is NIA?
  6. About the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
  7. Article 253 of the Indian Constitution.

Mains Link:

Discuss the functions and significance of PCA.

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Sources: the Hindu.