The Supreme Court on Tuesday closed all criminal cases against two Italian marines who were accused of shooting dead two Indian fishermen off the Kerala cost in 2012. The Supreme Court directed that a compensation of Rs 10 crore must be transferred to the Kerala High Court. The high court, in turn, must distribute the money; ₹ 4 crore each to families of the two victims and ₹ 2 crore to the owner of the boat.
Here’s the timeline of the case so far:
• On February 15, 2012, two Indian fishermen returning from a fishing expedition near Lakshadweep islands onboard fishing vessel St Antony were gunned down by two Italian marines on board oil tanker Enrica Lexie.
• Shortly after the incident, the Indian Coast Guard intercepted Enrica Lexie and detained the two Italian marines— Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre. The Kerala Police registered an FIR against them for murder and arrested them.
• In April, 2013, the case was transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) which invoked the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA).
• In early 2013, the marines were allowed to go back to Italy to vote. However, once they landed in Italy, Italian authorities told India they would not return the marines unless there was a guarantee they would not face the death penalty. This led to hectic diplomatic parleys after which the two marines were returned, without any of the guarantees requested by Italy.
• India argued it had jurisdiction over the case as the two fishermen were killed without warning just 20.5 nautical miles from Indian coast making the area part of India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
• Italy, meanwhile, claimed that as the Indian vessel drew close, the marines assessed that it “was on a collision course with the MV Enrica Lexie and that this modus operandi was consistent with a pirate attack”. It claimed that the fishing vessel continued to head towards the tanker despite warnings, and the firing of warning shots into the water.
• On March 7, 2014, India dropped the SUA charges against the marines. On February 7, 2014, the charges were downgraded from murder to violence meaning the marines would not face the death penalty if convicted.
• On June 26, 2015, Italy instituted proceedings against India before an arbitral tribunal to be constituted under Annex VII of UNCLOS. On July 21, it submitted a request before the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), seeking “provisional measures” directing India to not take any judicial or administrative step against the marines, and to allow Girone to leave and let both men stay in Italy until the end of the Tribunal’s proceedings.
• On August 24, 2015, ITLOS directed that both countries “shall suspend all court proceedings” in the matter, and asked them not to start new proceedings that might aggravate the dispute or jeopardise proceedings of the arbitral tribunal.
• The Supreme Court stayed all proceedings against the two Italian marines. The matter finally reached the Permanent Court of Arbitration in July, 2019.
• In May, 2020, the court ordered that the marines will not be tried in India, and will face criminal proceedings in Italy. The court, based in The Hague, further said New Delhi was entitled to compensation and asked India and Italy to consult on the amount of compensation due.
• In July 2020, the government told the Supreme Court that it had decided to accept the tribunal’s May 21, 2020 ruling in the case and sought disposal of the proceedings pending before the court in view of the tribunal’s ruling.
(With agency inputs)