KER­ALA AT WAR WITH CEN­TRE ON MARINES

State Congress is an­gry about the UPA Gov­ern­ment’s chang­ing stand on Ital­ians ac­cused of mur­der

India Today - - NATION - By M.G. Rad­hakr­ish­nan

Sus­pi­cion is grow­ing in Ker­ala that the Cen­tre wants to bail out the two Ital­ian marines ar­rested for shoot­ing dead two In­dian fish­er­men off the Ker­ala coast on Fe­bru­ary 15. This af­ter Ad­di­tional Solic­i­tor Gen­eral ( ASG) Harin Rawal told the Supreme Court on April 20 that In­dia had no ju­ris­dic­tion to de­tain the marines. The Gov­ern­ment later re­placed Rawal af­ter a strong protest by the Congress in Ker­ala, par­tic­u­larly Chief Min­is­ter Oom­men Chandy. The

ASG re­port­edly said the stance was his per­sonal view and not that of the Gov­ern­ment. The Cen­tre will now be rep­re­sented by At­tor­ney Gen­eral G.E. Va­han­vati in the case when it is taken up on April 30. The marines have been lodged in Cen­tral Prison, Tri­van­drum since Fe­bru­ary 20.

Rawal told the apex court that In­dia had no ju­ris­dic­tion to de­tain

En­rica Lexie as the in­ci­dent oc­curred while the ship was 20.5 nau­ti­cal miles away from the In­dian coast­line, in ef­fect 8.5 nau­ti­cal miles off the ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters of In­dia. This is the po­si­tion of the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment as well, op­posed by both the Cen­tral and state gov­ern­ments un­til now. The own­ers of the ship have ap­proached the court to per­mit the ship

PO­LIT­I­CAL PAR­TIES AND FISH­ER­MEN GROUPS BE­LIEVE THE GOVERN­MEN­TIS FAVOUR­ING THE ITAL­IANS. THEY POINT TO SUB­MIS­SIONS MADE IN THE HIGH COURT.

to leave. This has been op­posed by the state po­lice.

The rul­ing UDF in Ker­ala is in a fix over the Cen­tre’s chang­ing stand. Chandy’s an­gry protest to Union Law Min­is­ter Sal­man Khur­shid against the ASG’S state­ment led to Rawal be­ing re­placed. “I am as­sured the Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment will do noth­ing to jeop­ar­dise the in­ter­ests of Ker­ala or the fam­i­lies of the killed fish­er­men,” he told re­porters on April 21.

Fam­i­lies of the two fish­er­men have ac­cepted the com­pen­sa­tion of Rs 1 crore each of­fered by the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment as out-of-court set­tle­ment. On April 20, they con­veyed to the Ker­ala High Court their will­ing­ness to with­draw the cases. The owner of the fish­ing boat will get Rs 18 lakh, ac­cord­ing to the agree­ment signed by the fish­er­men and the Ital­ian con­sul gen­eral. The Ital­ian gov­ern­ment has ap­pealed in the Supreme Court to quash the FIR filed against the Ital­ian marines.

Po­lit­i­cal par­ties and fish­er­men groups in Ker­ala be­lieve the Cen­tre is favour­ing the Ital­ians. They point to the sub­mis­sions made in the high court ear­lier by Di­rec­tors-gen­eral of Ship­ping and Mer­can­tile Ma­rine De­part­ments, both un­der the Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment, say­ing they had no ob­jec­tions to free­ing the ship, now an­chored in Kochi. “It is clearly the Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment’s agenda to let them go,” says an an­gry Charles Ge­orge, sec­re­tary, Fish­er­men Co­or­di­na­tion Com­mit­tee.

Le­gal ex­perts in Ker­ala have expressed sim­i­lar views. “Though there are strong le­gal pro­vi­sions to pros­e­cute the Ital­ians, there is a clear game plan to let the Ital­ians es­cape,” says V.S. Syam Kumar, a teacher at the Na­tional Univer­sity for Ad­vanced Le­gal Stud­ies, Kochi. Ac­cord­ing to Kumar, pro­vi­sions of the In­dian Pe­nal Code as well as two in­ter­na­tional statutes—ad­mi­ral­ity Of­fences (Colo­nial) Act of 1849 and Sup­pres­sion of Un­law­ful Act, 2002— which are in force in In­dia, sup­port the coun­try’s right to pros­e­cute the marines. The Supreme Court bench of Jus­tices R.M. Lodha and H.L. Gokhale, who were hear­ing the case, said af­ter Rawal’s sub­mis­sion, “We do not ex­pect such a stand from the Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment when cit­i­zens of this coun­try have been killed.”

The Op­po­si­tion Left Demo­cratic Front blames it on Congress Pres­i­dent So­nia Gandhi’s Ital­ian roots. “We sus­pect So­nia Gandhi’s Ital­ian con­nec­tions are be­hind the con­tin­ued at­tempts by the Cen­tre to let off the Ital­ians,” says CPI(M) leader V.S. Achuthanan­dan.

MARINES MAS­SI­M­IL­IANO LA­TORRE (CEN­TRE), SAL­VA­TORE GIRONE (RIGHT) IN TRI­VAN­DRUM

KOL­LAM MPN. PEETHAMBARAKURUP CON­SOLES THE VIC­TIMS’FAM­I­LIES AND REL­A­TIVES

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