New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday suspended all court proceedings in India relating to the trial of two Italian marines in connection with the 2012 killing of two fishermen off Kerala coast.
The order came in pursuance of an interim order of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) asking India to maintain “status quo” in the case and suspend judicial proceedings till jurisdictional issue about which country has the right to conduct the trial is decided.
A three-judge bench comprising justices AR Dave, Kurian Joseph and Amitava Roy allowed the joint request of India and Italy that the proceedings here be stayed.
“A five-member tribunal (ITLOS Annex VII arbitral tribunal) would be set up, probably, in a month to decide the issue of jurisdiction,” Additional Solicitor General PS Narasimha, appearing for the Centre, said.
Senior advocate Soli Sorabji, appearing for marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, said the matter be "adjourned sine die" till another tribunal decides jurisdictional issue and can be revived by either of the parties.
"No. We will not adjourn it sine die," the bench said and fixed the matter for further hearing in the third week of January, 2016.
Earlier, Italy had told the apex court that it has invoked international arbitration challenging India's jurisdiction to try two of its marines.
The ASG had said that India, being a signatory to the International Convention, would participate in the arbitration proceedings.
The ASG, however, had asserted that India had jurisdiction to try the Italian marines, Latorre and Girone, as the alleged offence had taken place in the Indian waters.
The marines, who were on board ship 'Enrica Lexie', are accused of killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast on February 15, 2012, under the misconception that they were pirates.
Meanwhile, the court had extended the stay of Latorre, who underwent a heart surgery in Italy, by another six months and had asked him to file an undertaking that he would abide by its conditions within a week.
The six-month extension began from July 15.
Latorre, who had suffered a brain stroke on August 31 last year, was allowed by the apex court on September 12 last to go to Italy for four months.
Earlier, the apex court had taken on record an "unequivocal" and "unambiguous" undertaking by Latorre regarding the dates of departure and arrival back to India.
It had also taken on record the undertaking furnished by the Italian Ambassador on behalf of his country that the ailing marine would abide by all terms and conditions set for his travel to his native land.
The apex court, on January 14, extended Latorre's stay in Italy by three more months after he underwent a heart surgery.
The marines' plea was referred to this court by a bench headed CJI HL Dattu saying it was not proper for it to take up the application of the marine seeking extension of stay on health grounds, as it had earlier expressed some reservations and made certain observations on a similar plea.
The complaint against the Italian marines was lodged by Freddy, the owner of the fishing boat 'St Antony', in which the two Indian fishermen were killed when the marines started firing on them allegedly under the misconception that they were pirates.