Italian marines case: Conspiracy theorists, read these documents
The Italian government has requested the Indian government to set up a meeting at diplomatic level in order to reach an amicable solution of the controversy.
By Rajeev Sharma
The Indian government has had a poor track record of being soft on foreigners wanted in criminal cases in India. The list is long but to name a few – Italian Ottavio Quattrocchhi, American Warren Anderson, Danish Kim Davy and Britisher Peter Bleach (who was given a Presidential pardon in 2004 in the Purulia arms drop case of 1995 under intense pressure of the British government).
Interestingly, except for Bleach, in all other cases the benefactor was the Congress government. Davy had escaped during the PV Narasimha Rao government’s tenure, while it was the Atal Behari Vajpayee government which had secured presidential pardon for Bleach and five Latvian nationals, the latter under pressure from the Russian government.
However, the latest episode of Italy cocking a snook to India and reneging on its legally delivered pledge of returning its two marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone to India for facing trial here in connection with the killing of two Kerala fishermen in the high seas in February 2012 is rather queer.
Firstpost is making available two crucial documents: (i) the Supreme Court’s order of 22 February 2013 on the Italian marines and (ii) the Italian marines’ Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court on 9 February 2013 which includes a sworn affidavit by Italian ambassador in India, Daniele Mancini, wherein he has given a sworn undertaking to the apex court that the two accused marines will be kept under his “round the clock custody, control and supervision”. The ambassador had also pledged in his affidavit before the Supreme Court that he “will take full responsibility for securing the return” of the two marines to India on or before the expiry of the period of the leave given to them by the apex court.
Supreme Court’s order of 22 February 2013
Italian marines’ Special Leave Petition in the SC on 9 February 2013
After one goes through these court documents, it is difficult to blame the Indian government or even the judiciary or talk about the conspiracy theories. While this writer holds no brief for the UPA government, it is pertinent to point out that this writer has covered all courts—lower courts, Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court—for years on behalf of the United News of India (UNI) in late eighties and early nineties.
In the face of express permission from the Supreme Court for the two marines to visit their country for a period of four weeks on the basis of a sworn undertaking given by none other than the Italian ambassador in India it would be imprudent to blame the UPA government. No government in Delhi could have ignored the Supreme Court order in this regard.
Once the Supreme Court has come into the picture, the government of India has no option but to implement the judicial order. Now that the Italian government has chosen to function in a rogue manner it is for Rome to explain its conduct to the international community.
As for the Indian government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went on record as telling a group of Kerala MPs who called on him earlier in the day that the Italian act was "unacceptable".
Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai summoned the Italian ambassador to his South Block office today evening and is understood to have given him quite an earful. The Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement also saying that Mathai conveyed to Mancini the government of India’s position on this matter "in the strongest of terms". The MEA said: “It was conveyed to him (the Italian envoy) that India expects Republic of Italy as a country that is committed to the rule of law to fulfill the sovereign undertaking given by it to the Supreme Court of India. It was only following this undertaking that the Supreme Court allowed the two Marines to travel to and remain in Italy for a period of four weeks and return to India under the care, supervision and control of the Italian Republic. It was conveyed to the Italian Ambassador that the Italian Government was obliged to ensure their return to India within the stipulated period as per the terms of the Supreme Court order.”
Mathai also told the Italian ambassador that the Indian government does not agree with the position conveyed by the Italian government on the return of the two Marines to India. The MEA received a note verbale from the Embassy of Italy in New Delhi late in the evening of 11 March 2013 regarding the Supreme Court decision of 18 January 2013 on the Italian Marines issue. The note verbale conveyed that Italy deems that there is an existing controversy with India concerning the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Seas of 1982 and the general principles of international law applicable to the Enrica Lexie incident.
The Italian government has requested the Indian government to set up a meeting at diplomatic level in order to reach an amicable solution of the controversy. A request had earlier been received in this regard on 6 March 2013 which is still under examination by the Indian government.
The 11 March Italian note verbale informed India that “since a controversy between the two States has been established, the two Italian marines, Latorre and Girone, will not return to India on the expiration of the permission granted to them”. The MEA statement also mentioned that through its order dated 22 February 2013, the Indian Supreme Court had permitted the two marines to leave India on the express undertaking given by the Republic of Italy, and under the terms of the order, they are required to return to India within a period of four weeks to face legal proceedings in India.
It will be interesting to watch how the Italy-India diplomatic standoff plays out in the coming days and weeks. However, it is Italy rather than India that stands to lose more. There are many ways that the UPA government can demonstrate to Italy how it has bitten more than it can chew provided "Super PM" Sonia Gandhi gives her green signal. But this is a different story and will be narrated soon. Watch this space.
The writer is a Firstpost columnist who can be reached at email@example.com.
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