Italian marines: NIA to probe, SC refuses to interfere

In a setback to the two Italian marines accused of killing fishermen off the coast of Kerala last year, the Supreme Court Friday refused to interfere with the government's decision to have the National Investigating Agency to probe and prosecute them.

It was for the government to take decisions as far as probe and trial in the case were concerned, a bench led by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said.

The bench, however, directed the special court, set up to hear the case of marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, to conduct trial on day-to-day basis. Also, the marines will remain out on bail till their trial begins and then the special court will consider extension of bail.

The bench clarified that issues regarding the jurisdictional aspect of their trial in India, if raised, will be adjudicated by the special court in light of the Supreme Court's orders issued in January.

Soon after the government had notified the special court, as directed by the bench, and directed the NIA to probe them, the marines and their government had challenged the decision.

The NIA, they had argued, did not have jurisdiction to probe the case unless the marines were to be charged under the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act. And if the NIA must investigate, they submitted, then the government should assure that the marines would not be charged under this law as it could entail death sentence.

The government not only refused to furnish such an assurance but told the Supreme Court at the previous hearing that the "accused could not put conditions" as to the charges to be levelled against them.

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