Marine issue: SC may pose tough questions to Italian envoy Daniele Mancini

Daniele Mancini

Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini may face tough questions tomorrow from the Supreme Court when it takes up the issue of Italy reneging on its undertaking to send back its marines charged with the killing of two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast last year.

Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, who described the Italian government's refusal to send back the marines as "unprecedented", still hoped that the Supreme Court's order will be complied with by Italy as the deadline for their return ends on March 22.

"The communication by the Italian government declining to send back the marines after giving undertaking to the highest court of the country through its Ambassador is unprecedented," Kumar said today.

"The Prime Minister has already made a statement on the issue (in Parliament). The Attorney General ( G E Vahanvati) will convey the government's stand tomorrow depending upon the response of the Italian government in the court tomorrow.

"It is sincerely hoped that the order of the Supreme Court will be complied with," he said.

Some legal experts feel that Mancini can be hauled up by the apex court for contempt and that he cannot take seek diplomatic immunity

Harish Salve, who quit as Italian government's counsel, feels that Mancini breached a solemn undertaking given to Supreme Court which can take action against the envoy including sending him to jail.

Salve said he feels that the Ambassador will find it "very hard" to explain in the court why he went back on the undertaking.

Responding to a query on enforcing action against a person enjoying diplomatic immunity, the senior lawyer said, "Our Constitution commands everybody will act in aid and according to directions of the Supreme Court."

The apex court had on March 15 restrained the Italian Ambassador from leaving the country without its permission, taking exception to his government's refusal to send back the marines.

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