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There were no legal grounds for holding the Italian Marines: Surya Gangadharan

Updated: March 12, 2013, 6:33 PM IST
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There were no legal grounds for holding the Italian Marines: Surya Gangadharan
CNN-IBN's Surya Gangadharan on India-Italy standoff over the undertrial marines' non-return.

CNN-IBN's Surya Gangadharan joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on India-Italy standoff over the under trial marines' non-return.

Q. What would Italy have done if India renegaded in a similar circumstance? Asked by: EMathew

A. I think we need to understand the legal situation first. I recall a top Indian navy source telling me last year that the Italian ship was outside the 12 nautical mile limit of Indian waters. Therefore, they cannot be tried in India, that is international law or the UN law of the sea. But our govt was on the defensive from within and without (the media) and the result is this. They should have been tried by the Italians. As for India we don't authorise our sailors to shoot at people in the high seas unless without good cause.

Q. Is there any relation between the Augusta deal and the Italian marines case? Asked by: EMathew

A. No absolutely not. They stand alone.

Q. We people are considered too soft by other countries. Do you think (though I know it won't) that the govt. will listen and highlight to other countries that we are no pushovers? Asked by: Gaurav

A. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Where India's vital interests are at stake we go the extra mile. In the case of the Maldives we were able to broker a deal between the ruling party and the opposition. The world knows we will not be moved on our vital interests like Kashmir, nuclear weapons etc.

Q. Hey Surya, this is not the first time this sort of thing has happened. Many will remember how the Union Carbide's Anderson was flown out of India by Arjun Singh (CM, MP) and Rajiv Gandhi. So its just a resounding approval of the fact that we are a very soft country. Asked by: Gaurav

A. You should ask the tribals of India, or the Kashmiris or those countless Sikh families who died during the years of militancy whether the Indian state was soft. As for Anderson ,it was a different time and am not sure there were any legal grounds for holding him.

Q. We honor our commitments with the word we have given. Italians had done the same and now is reneging. Can we sue and claim breach of trust on the same grounds. Asked by: EMathew

A. I am pretty sure the Italians would have informed the Indians of their intentions. The fact is the legal basis on which the Italians are being held is shaky. The incident took place outside Indian territorial waters, it is the Italian govt which is responsible and has to try the sailors, also the Italians have paid compensation to the Kerala families whose breadwinners were killed.

Q. Why do we allow 2 murderers facing trial, to go out of the country, so that they could celebrate Christmas or vote in the elections? Did the family of the dead fishermen celebrate Christmas? Would we accord the same rulings to others who are charged with murder? Haven't people heard of postal ballots? There was no reason to let them out of the country! And I believe this is in itself is evidence enough of a collusion! Asked by: Kart

A. I believe there was collusion because there were no legal grounds for holding them. This case is not in India's jurisdiction as it happened outside Indian waters. The issue became politically sticky for the Indian govt because of the outcry in Kerala. The Italians have offered arbitration but I think South Block would prefer to allow this thing to just fade away from public memory.

Q. What do you think will be the final outcome of this episode? In your opinion, do you think the marines will be sent back to India? And what will be the effect of this domestically? Asked by: Sandeep

A. The Italians are not coming back. I haven't heard any noise from the families of the dead fishermen, they've been compensated very handsomely by the Italians. I do hope the Italians probe the conduct of the two sailors and take action. It's tragic yes but it happened outside Indian waters and the matters should just be closed.

Q. Is Italians criminal on holiday in India. they are getting Christmas holidays and holiday to vote in Italy. Is the same treatment will be given to Indians if they are in Jails of Italy? Asked by: prathap

A. Which Indians are you referring to here? Indians in Italian jails for immigration offences committed on Italian soil. They need to be in jail, they are in Italy illegally, working illegally. Their case and that of the sailors are very different.

Q. Anderson, Kim davy, Quottarachi, Italian Marines. In all these has India made a mistake in trying to say they are culprits even before an investigation was done and the landed up mud in face? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. These are all different cases. Anderson am not sure can be held personally responsible for the Carbide tragedy. Kim Davy could be brought to India for interrogation in the purulia arms drop case. Quattrochi it would seem is a key figure in the Bofors scandal but got away with the connivance of the Indian govt agencies. The Italian marines have spent time in Indian jails so it would not be fair to say they've got away scot free. Plus they probably face some inquiry into their conduct in Italy.

Q. Guilty or not was to be decided by our Hon'ble supreme Court which has a fair view. Breach of trust by Italians to the court - does it not amount to Contempt of our Court? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. Sure but they are in Italy where the jurisdiction of Italian courts apply. What can an India court do about that.

Q. On India being soft-their are numerous evidences. What happened in Kandahar during 1999, late 1980s- J&K CM's daughter was abducted and the govt. had to leave some terrorists. Numerous terrorists incidents even after 26.11.2008-no lessons learnt. We could see the preparedness and the level of sophisticated weapons and protective shields provided to the forces. When SM Krishna was in Pakistan a couple of years back, we knew what happened at the Press Conference. Now Hafeez Saeed was seen with a Hurriat Separatist in Pakistan. What did the govt. do. The list is big. And yes, during Operation Bluestar something extraordinary happened. But that was exceptional. the govt. had no choice and India was in danger. Your views on this? Asked by: Gaurav

A. You are really going back in time but let me try. The Indian govt was accused of being soft when they released terrorists to get back the Indian hostages in Kandahar. That was also because our anti-terror systems failed to stop the aircraft on the ground. The J&K CMs daughter, yes I vaguely recall the enormous effort made to ensure she was set free; 26/11 was failure on multiple fronts from intelligence to basic policing. Hafeez Saeed is symptomatic of a larger problem, that of the Paki govt/army hand in glove with jihadi groups and we have yet to develop the instruments of state power to counter them. Those are failings. Bluestar was also a failing for although Bhindranwale was killed terrorism took off in Punjab for another six to seven years leading to Indira Gandhi's killing and the anti Sikh riots.

Q. Killing person or illegal emigration which is a bigger crime? Asked by: prathap

A. Killing yes but I was trying to make a legal point there. Our jurisdiction in the case of the Italian marines is questionable, senior Indian naval officers told me that the govt will end up with egg on its face, which it did!

Q. You replied to a query on Quattrochi, Anderson, Davy, etc. But if it had been USA instead of India, will the reply of India have been the same? We knew how USA's response was to Roman Polanski, Bobby Fischer, etc. Asked by: Gaurav

A. Forget Polanski etc, last year a US naval ship killed an Indian sailor at a port in the UAE. They informed us about it and said investigations are on. Not clear where it's headed since the ship involved has since left the UAE. But they are a 200 pound gorilla and we know we can do nothing. Much depends on what the UAE probe turns up but not sure how far that has gone.

Q. How can you have a view on jurisdiction which differs from view taken by SC? Asked by: Kapil

A. Why not, I have a brain and can think.

Q. You speak about tribals, Sikh and Kashmiri Separatists. Firstly, its India's internal matter. Secondly, Kashmir is a communal issue (you may agree/disagree). And not just tribals, Kashmiris, etc, everyone not in power or having links or money feels dissatisfied with the govt. This is because in India, politics is above everything else even for the tiniest of issues. I can elaborate if you want Surya! Asked by: Gaurav

A. Sure the Italian marines case took off because of the outcry in Kerala and AK Antony had no choice but to stand up for his constituents. All I'm saying is since the incident happened outside Indian waters, India has no jurisdiction here. This is what the Indian Navy also tells me.

Q. How can you say that they were wrongly held in India when SC ruled that Italians has to be tried by Indian Court. SC just said that case has to be registered by Central Govt rather than Karela Govt. Asked by: Kapil

A. I'm not a lawyer but this is a case under the UN law of the sea and that is very clear. Tomorrow if an Indian sailor on an Indian ship goes and kills an Italian outside Italian waters, it is Indian law that will apply, not Italian.

Q. If an Indian kill some one thinking that he is a dacoit in Italy will Indian government will protect them as being done by Italy? Asked by: prathap

A. It it happens in Italy we have no jurisdiction, but the Indian embassy will be given consular access and they can assist in his legal defence.

Q. The stand that it was in International waters does not hold water. An unabashed act of trigger happy Italians shooting down innocent fisherman has no excuses. If the victims were US or Gulf country citizens would the Italians got such a lenient treatment? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. I don't know.

Q. Hi Surya, Are you defending the Italy's decision to not send back the marines and trying to make the point that India has been wrong right from the very beginning? Asked by: Raj

A. My point is the Indian govt would have known this would happen. My guess is even the courts were in the know, how else could these guys have been allowed to travel outside even when the trial was on.

Q. Do you think there is a conspiracy here? India will lodge an official protest and then will later claim that due to this issue, Italians are not co-operating in Augusta Westland Probe? The Italian envoy has diplomatic immunity so he can't be tried for contempt of court but he can still be asked to go back. India can call back their embassy. This is shameful. Consider what China would have done in this case. Asked by: Raj

A. I can't speak for the Chinese. I think the scenario you are drawing is fanciful. In the AW case the probe is going on in Italy, not here. All the information/evidence is coming from there and the Italians are concerned about wrongdoing by their people! It remains to be seen what India's response will be. Salman Khurshid was circumlocutory as usual.

Q. Hypothetical, but if Italians were killed in hi sea by Indian soldiers, and arrested in Italy. Do you think our govt would have ever raised voice? Asked by: Kapil

A. Yes it would have and incidentally, you seem to be under the impression we are bunch of weasels. We are not. The Italians need us more given all the stuff we are buying from them. We can always take our business elsewhere.

Q. Is this not a legal matter? can India take it to International Criminal Court? Asked by: sundar1950in

A. The Italians have offered arbitration, yes we can take this forward if we want to.

Q. Does this not show that the Italians have a complete contempt for Indian systems and a complete lack of integrity? And if this is true what chance do we realistically have of getting those two back? Asked by: c4conscience

A. Mr Conscience have you considered that there was collusion between the two govt's, that the Indians would have known the Italians were not coming back. Get real. Those chaps are not coming back.

Q. Sir, if Italy remain adamant,what is the way out? Asked by: Shyam Vadalker

A. The Italians have offered arbitration that's a way forward. Or perhaps some international criminal court but we maybe wary of that route.

Q. If it was another country in say Europe, would they have allowed the marines who have been charged to go back to their nation even temporarily. Does the western world see India as a weak country? Asked by: Narayan

A. The west sees India as a place to do business with. Witness the Danish govt offering to do a deal on Kim Davy the Purulia arms drop key man. There were reports recently we will cold shoulder Danish firms trying to do business here. So we have enough leverage.

Q. Just one last thing to add on India being soft-the planned Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. What was India's response to USA's suggestion on this. Now Pakistan and Iran have decide to start this. This pipeline would have been a boon for India. Your views. Asked by: Gaurav

A. We are okay with the pipeline if Pak wants to take it upto the Indian border at their cost. We will pay the cost in India. Once the gas starts coming we'll pay Iran for the gas and Pak the transit fee. Nothing more nothing less.

Q. You say that the Italian marines issue happened in the international waters. But what to the justice thing? Will the culprits go scot-free? Asked by: Gaurav

A. I hope not. Hope the Italians open an investigation and probe the conduct of their sailors.

First Published: March 12, 2013, 6:33 PM IST
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