Chandy demands trial of Italian marines in Kerala

TRIVANDRUM — Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has demanded the trial of the two Italian marines charged with the murder of two Indian fishermen off Kerala coast in February last year in the state.

By T K Devasia

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Published: Sun 24 Mar 2013, 9:09 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 4:11 PM

He has written a letter in this regard to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday. Chandy said in his letter that the Sessions Court at Quilon, where the marines’ case was committed for trial, could be designated as special court as per the Supreme Court directive.

He pointed out that all the records and evidences in the case were now before the Sessions Court. If the proposed special court is set up in New Delhi or elsewhere, all the witnesses, who are in the state, will have to travel outside frequently to give evidence in the case.

The chief minister pointed out that the chargesheet and other documents related to the case were in Malayalam and they will also have to be translated to other languages if the special court was set up outside the state.

This, he said, may delay the trial and cause untold hardship to the accused and the prosecution. Hence he said that it was highly necessary to designate the Quilon Sessions Court as special court to meet the apex court order for a speedy and expeditious trial of the case.

The apex court had in January ordered the trial by a special court while ruling that the Kerala government had no jurisdiction to try the marines, who shot dead the two fishermen, Jelastine and Ajesh Binki, mistaking them to be pirates.

A division bench of Chief Justice Altamash Kabir and Justice J. Chelameswar held that it was only the union of India that had the jurisdiction to hold the trial of the marines — Massimilano Latorre and Salvatore Girone — under the Maritime Law.

Meanwhile, Chandy told reporters in the state capital that the assurances given by India to Italy for returning the marines to the country will not pose any obstacle to independent trial.

The chief minister said the media reports that the marines will not be given death sentence were only interpretations. He said that the government had only stated that the case did not come in the category of rarest of rare cases.

The trial in the case, which began in the Quilon court, was stayed by the state high court after Italy filed petitions in the high court and Supreme Court challenging India’s jurisdiction to try the marines.

The apex court dismissed the petition ruling that the Italian government will be free to raise the question in the special court, which will decide whether the Government of India or the Italian Government has the jurisdiction to conduct the trial of the two marines under the Maritime Law. Italy challenged India’s jurisdiction arguing that the shooting had taken place in international waters, where Indian laws were not applicable.

The Supreme Court observed that the incident had occurred within the contiguous zone and hence the country was entitled to prosecute the marines under the criminal justice system prevalent in the country. However, the court said that the same was subject to the provisions of Article 100 of UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982.

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