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Harish Salve quits as Italy's lawyer in fishermen case


Updated: March 13, 2013, 10:06 AM IST
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Harish Salve quits as Italy's lawyer in fishermen case
Senior counsel Harish Salve has called Italy's decision of not sending back its marines a 'breach of faith'.

New Delhi: In another counter-blow to Italy from India, senior counsel Harish Salve has refused to appear for Italy any more in the Kerala fishermen killings case. This comes after Italy refused to send back its marines to India. In a statement, Harish salve said, "I have informed the Italian ambassador that it will no longer be possible for me to appear or be associated with this case."

Calling Italy's action a breach of faith, Salve said in the statement, "I consider this action of the Republic of Italy as a breach of faith. It is my perception that the Italian Government should have, in the least, forewarned its Indian lawyers of the change of its position before communicating it to the Government of India."

He said it was act of grace on part of the Supreme Court to allow the Italian marines to travel to Italy for elections. "It was an act of faith in a friendly government that the Government of India did not oppose this request, and an act of grace on the part of the Supreme Court of India to grant the permission sought for," Salve said in his statement.

Meanwhile, the Indian government is also trying to regain lost ground. Sources have told CNN-IBN that the Italian ambassador to India Daniele Mancini will be asked to leave. CNN-IBN has learned that the final decision to expel the Italian envoy will be taken and formalised within a week.

All this even as MPs are set to bring up the issue in Parliament on Wednesday after the Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday alleged diplomatic collusion between Delhi and Rome. The BJP will move a Calling Attention Motion on Wednesday in both Houses of Parliament demanding answers from the government. The opposition party said the diplomatic tussle is a contempt of the Supreme Court.

Joining the BJP, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said he would take up the issue with the External Affairs Ministry. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had termed the Italian government's decision as unacceptable.

Italy maintained that the incident occurred in international waters and has been trying to get the two marines - Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone - tried in Italian courts, but India contended the shooting occurred in its own territory.

The government on Tuesday urged Italy to "honour the commitment" made to the Supreme Court of India and brushed away its suggestion of arbitration to resolve the issue. "Italy is obliged to ensure that the marines return to India as per their assurance. He (Italian Ambassador) took note of our position and said he would convey that to Rome," Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said after meeting the Italian envoy on Tuesday evening.

Supreme Court had given them permission to stay out of the country only till March 22. The two marines are facing trial for killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast in February 2012, mistaking them for pirates.

Big questions:

- Why was the envoy's guarantee accepted when he enjoys immunity from contempt of court?

- Why didn't Centre oppose marines' plea to return home?

- Will the Supreme Court take steps to enforce Italy's commitments made to it?

- Will the impasse affect the AgustaWestland chopper deal probe underway in Italy?

First Published: March 13, 2013, 10:06 AM IST
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