The SC ordered the closure of Italian Marines case in India

Synopsis – What is the case of the Italian Marines, what was the conflict between India and Italy over the issue and the possible reason of delay in prosecuting the matter.

Introduction –
  • After Italy deposited Rs 10 crore in compensation, the SC ordered the closure of court proceedings in India against two Italian marines accused of killing two fishermen off the coast of Kerala in 2012 after mistaking them for pirates.
  • The diplomatic turbulence, legal tangle over jurisdiction between India and Italy caused the delay in resolving the Italian marine’s case.
What was the dispute over the Italian Marines case?
  • India
    • India alleged that the Italian marines on board “Enrica Lexie” had violated the freedom of navigation rights by shooting at the fishing boat.
    • As the two fishermen were killed without warning, India has jurisdiction over the matter.
    • The NIA the NIA invoked anti-piracy law, the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA).
  • Italy – The prosecution under the SUA Convention was challenged by Italy for comparing the occurrence to a terrorist attack.
    • According to Italy, as the Indian vessel approached, the Italian marines determined that it was a pirate attack. As the fishing vessel continued to head towards the tanker despite sustained visual and auditory warnings, and the firing of warning shots into the water.
    • Italy claims the marines had been hired to protect the tanker from pirates and they were only carrying out their duties.
    • Italy also claims that the marines enjoyed sovereign functional immunity in India and Italy alone had jurisdiction to deal with them.
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International tribunal’s ruling-
  • In 2020, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that the two Italian marines were on a mission for the Italian government and so should be sent to Italy, where they would face criminal charges.
  • By the ratio of 3:2 votes, the Italian marines were entitled to diplomatic immunity as Italian state officers under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and that India could not exercise jurisdiction against them.
  • The UN tribunal had also ruled that the Indian fishing boat and its victims were entitled to compensation as the Italian vessel, had violated the boat’s right of navigation under the Law of the Sea.
Way forward-
  • If India had accepted Italy’s offer of compensation and a trial in its own jurisdiction sooner, the delay in prosecuting the matter could have been avoided.
  • As a result, a lesson learned is that such cases should be handled with using both legal and diplomatic means to get a speedy resolution.

Source – The Hindu

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