This Article is From Mar 13, 2013

Harish Salve withdraws as counsel for Italian marines: Full statement

Harish Salve withdraws as counsel for Italian marines: Full statement
New Delhi: Senior Supreme Court lawyer Harish Salve who has been representing the Italian marines has now withdrawn from the case. He says he has informed the Italian Ambassador that he will not be associated with the case anymore.

Below is Harish Salve's full statement.

I was shocked to find out on Monday evening, through the media, that the Italian government had reneged on its assurance given to the Supreme Court that the Marines would be produced before the appropriate Indian legal authorities on or before the expiry of the period during which there are permitted to visit Italy by the Supreme Court of India.

The Italian government elected to subject itself to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India and made itself subject to the jurisdiction of the court.

It was on this basis that the Hon'ble Supreme Court heard the petition challenging the jurisdiction of the State of Kerala to arrest the Marines and to initiate legal action against them.

While the case was pending in the Supreme Court, the Italian Republic, through its lawyers in Kerala sought permission of the Kerala High Court for the Marines to visit Italy for Christmas. This request was agreed to by the Government of India, as a noble gesture, and on an undertaking by the Italian Republic to bring back the Marines, the High Court allowed the Marines to travel to Italy for Christmas. This undertaking was honoured, and the Marines were brought back to India.

The Supreme Court in its judgment, held that the Marines would require to be tried by a Court to be set up by the Union of India, and in the meanwhile, at the request of the Italian Republic, the Supreme Court directed that the Marines be under the custody of the Supreme Court, and permitted them to shift to Delhi and to remain on bail subject to reporting to the Chanakyapuri Police Station.

After the judgement of the Supreme Court, the Italian government desired that the Marines be permitted to visit Italy to vote in the general elections, and also to visit home,  during the time it would take for  the Union of India to constitute a Court for their trial.

Thus  leave was sought from the Supreme Court for their visit to Italy, on the basis of an undertaking given by the Italian government. The language of the undertaking was finalised by the legal office in Rome and with inputs from the office of the Honorable Prime Minister of Italy.

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.

The option of invoking remedies in public international law was always available, but the Italian government expressed faith in the Indian judicial system by acceding to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India. The decision to renege on its undertaking is therefore unfortunate.

As senior counsel, we are officers of the court in the first instance and our primary duty is to the Court. 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..

In these circumstances, I have informed the Italian ambassador that it will no longer be possible for me to appear for me to be associated with this case.