The Kerala government on Tuesday opposed in the high court the plea by two Italian marines, accused of killing two Indian fishermen in February, to facilitate their visit to Italy for Christmas, saying it would "torpedo" the trial even as the Centre's response was sought by Wednesday.
The 2 Italian marines have approached the high Court for permission to attend the special Christmas prayers and masses arranged by their families back in Italy for 2 weeks. They have also submitted an undertaking sworn by the Consul General of Italy in India saying that the Republic of Italy would be responsible for round-the-clock care, custody and supervision of the 2 marines in Italy and would be the responsibility of the Republic of Italy to escort the marines back to India after the 2-week period.
Hearing the plea of the marines for relaxation of bail conditions, Justice P Bhavadasan directed the Union government to inform by Wednesday whether the assurance given by the Italian embassy on the return of the two marines in Kochi after celebrating Christmas, was acceptable.
The Centre should inform its stand to the court by 1.45 pm on Wednesday; the judge said when a petition by Massimiliano Latore and Salvatore Girone came up.
The Counsel for the accused, advocate P Viajaya Bhanu argued that since the 2 marines have strictly been following all the bail conditions and have been away from their homes since 10 months due to delay in proceedings, they be granted the 2-weeks desired. He also said the undertaking was not being taken by any individuals but was being taken by the Republic of Italy and hence need not to be doubted.
Kerala Director General of Prosecution T Asaf Ali said there are parallel proceedings pending before the office of Public Prosecutor Tribunal of Rome for "intervening" in international waters.
If the government of Italy witholds them for further prosecution of the case, "we have no legal remedy to bring them back", he said.
He said their travel to Italy will "torpedo" the entire trial in Kochi. However, the marines can travel anywhere in Kerala, he said.
As per their bail conditions, the marines cannot leave the territorial limits of Kochi Police Commissioner's office and have to stay within 10 kilometre radius from it.
He said the relatives and friends of the marines can come down to Kerala to celebrate Christmas.
Justice Bhavadasan asked the state and central governments whether they accepted the authority of Consul General of Italy in India who has sworn in an affidavit assuring return of the two accused. The court also suggested to the petitioners to get in touch with External Affairs Ministry.
The DGP said the "remedy is only political and not judicial. If a political decision is taken, it can be accepted".
Italy's Defence Minister Giampaolo Di Paolo had on Sunday visited the two marines and hoped the case would be solved in accordance with national laws and international justice.
Paolo had also made an appeal for allowing Massimiliano Latore and Salvatore Girone to return to Italy for Christmas.
The 2 Italian marines were arrested on February 19 after they shot dead 2 unarmed Indian fishermen mistaking them to be pirates approaching the cargo-loaded ship Enrica Lexie. The Director General of Prosecution said that open firing by the marines was without any instructions from their Commander.
The marines were granted bail on May 30th under strict conditions which included their movement to Ernakulam district and surrendering their passports. Meanwhile stepping up the pressure, the Italian Defence Minister visited the 2 marines on 16th February in Kochi and said they were still on active duty.
(With Inputs from PTI)