New Delhi: As Italy reversed its decision of not sending back its two naval guards, government on Friday said India has given assurances to that country that they will not face death penalty and will not be liable for arrest if they return by the deadline of today set by the Supreme Court.
Hours after Italy made the announcement that the naval guards will return to face trial, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid told Parliament that India had given assurances after clarifications were sought on death penalty which was a "concern" to that country.
Making identical statements in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, he expressed happiness that the matter was being "brought to a satisfactory conclusion" and the trial will now proceed as per the directions of the Supreme Court.
Khurshid said the government was informed through "a diplomatic approach" that Italy would be willing to send the two naval guards back to India as per its commitment to face trial in the case of killing two fishermen in February last year.
"It sought from India clarifications regarding the conditions applicable to the naval guards on their return and the provisions regarding the death penalty that could be applicable in this case which was an Italian concern.
"Notwithstanding the pending proceedings, the government has informed the Italian government that the two naval guards will not be liable for arrest if they return within the time frame laid down by the Supreme Court of India," he said.
The Supreme Court had allowed the naval guards to go to their home country for four weeks to cast votes in general elections. The four-week period expires on Friday.
India also allayed Italy's fears by saying that "according to well-settled Indian jurisprudence, this case would not fall in the category of matters which attract the death penalty, that is to say the rarest of rare cases. Therefore, there need not be any apprehension in this regard," Khurshid said.
At the same time, the external affairs minister said the Supreme Court had ruled that India has the jurisdiction over the case and the marines -- Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Giron -- shall "once again be bound by the conditions contained in the order" passed by the Court on January 18.
"The Supreme Court, in its order dated 18 January 2013, in a writ petition filed by the Italian marines and the Republic of Italy raising several jurisdictional issues, had ruled, inter alia, that India has jurisdiction," Khurshid said.
He pointed out that the SC had also ruled that "the matter will be put before a Special Court to be set up by the Union of India in consultation with the Chief Justice of India to try this case and to dispose of the same in accordance with the provisions of the Maritime Zones Act, 1976, the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure and the provisions of UNCLOS 1982, where there is no conflict between the domestic law and UNCLOS 1982."
In his statement, Khurshid gave details of the sequence of events related to the case.
He noted that after Italy told India on March 11 that the marines will not return on the expiration of the permission granted to them, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had stated that Italy should respect the undertaking given to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court, in its order of January 22, had allowed the marines to travel to Italy and the Italian government gave an undertaking to it that the marines "will be kept under its constant custody, supervision and control during this period and took full responsibility for securing" their return to New Delhi "on or before the expiry of the period permitted by the court".