India has jurisdiction to try Italian marines, says SC

NAT

The Supreme Court on Friday affirmed India's jurisdiction to try the two Italian marines, accused of killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast in February last year, after underlining that a criminal act cannot be said to be an "incident of navigation".

It ruled that the two marines will be tried in a special court to be set up by the government after consultation with the Chief Justice of India (CJI), while dismissing Italy's plea to quash all criminal proceedings in view of lack of jurisdiction by any state in India to make its marines stand the murder trial.

A Bench of CJI Altamas Kabir and Justice J Chelameswara also clarified the bail conditions of the marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who had been released on bail by the Kerala High Court, which lost its jurisdiction following the apex court judgment.

The Bench said the two marines will be shifted to Delhi and will be considered to be under the custody of the Supreme Court till the Centre constitutes the special court. It asked them to report to Chanakyapuri police station once every week and directed that their passports be handed over to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Marines Latorre and Girone were part of a military security team aboard cargo ship 'Enrica Lexie' when they opened fire on a fishing boat, killing two fishermen. They said they mistook the boat for a pirate craft. They were subsequently charged for murder and a Kerala court initiated their prosecution.

In its verdict, the Supreme Court Bench held that Kerala had no jurisdiction to conduct the trial because the incident occurred in the Contiguous Zone. Since the government of India extended the application of the penal laws to the Contiguous Zone that extends up to 24 nautical miles from the baseline only the Centre could take cognizance of, investigate and prosecute persons for any crime, the court said.

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