Curtains down on Italian marines case as SC ends all criminal proceedings in India

The Supreme Court on Tuesday closed all criminal proceedings pending in India against two Italian marines, accused of killing of two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in 2012, after payment of Rs 10 crore compensation by Italy.

A bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and M.R. Shah said that considering the international tribunal order, India has agreed to the compensation of Rs 10 crore and Italy has deposited the amount, which has been transferred to the top court’s registry.

“We are satisfied with the compensation and the ex-gratia paid over and above earlier.

“We are of the view that this is a fit case to close all the proceedings in India including criminal proceedings in exercise of powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India,” said the bench, quashing the FIR registered at Kerala’s Kollam and re-registered by NIA in 2013 and also all proceedings originating from the case.

The bench noted as per the tribunal order, Italy will resume the criminal proceedings against the marines. It ordered transfer of Rs 10 crore to the Kerala High Court registry, out of which Rs 4 crore each should be paid to the two victims’ families and Rs 2 crore to the boat owner.

The bench added the High Court should appoint a judge to ensure the compensation is paid to the victims’ legal heirs.

The top court closed the case taking into account the Arbitral Tribunal, constituted under Annex VII of UNCLOS, award dated May 21, 2020 under which Italy agreed to pay the compensation of Rs 10 crore, over and above the amount of ex-gratia amount already paid.

Citing the tribunal order, the top court noted that Italy can begin criminal proceedings against the two marines, and case details along with evidence will be provided by the Centre and the Kerala government to it.

The top court also said the order of disbursement/investment be passed after hearing the heirs of each deceased and protecting their best interest.

It noted that Kerala government, the heirs of the deceased fishermen and the owner of the boat have agreed to accept the award.

The top court said that Rs 10 crore can be said to be a reasonable amount of compensation and in the interest of heirs of the deceased.

It emphasised that while disbursing the compensation to the heirs of the deceased fishermen, their interest is also required to be protected so that the amount of compensation paid to them is not frittered away, by investing the amount in the name of the heirs of each deceased in a fixed deposit in a nationalised bank for some time.

Heirs of the deceased will be paid the periodical interest accrued thereon, it said.

In February 2012, India had accused two Italian marines, Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre, on board the MV Enrica Lexie — an Italian flagged oil tanker — of killing two Indian fishermen who were on a fishing vessel in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The top court in August last year had told the Centre that it would not pass any on closure of cases against the two marines without hearing the victims’ families.