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Will close Italian Marines case only after compensation deposited: SC

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New Delhi, April 9, 2021-
The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Centre to deposit Rs 10 crore compensation, received from the Italian government to be paid to the families of fishermen killed by the two Italian marines, with the court within a period of one week.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian said the compensation will be deposited with the court for disbursement among the victims, and the case against the marines will be closed only after compensation is deposited.

The Central government and the Kerala government informed the top court that victims’ families have agreed to a compensation of Rs 10 crore, over and above ex-gratia amount received earlier from Italy.

Senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, representing the Kerala government, submitted that compensation was acceptable to the families. Advocate Unni Krishnan, appearing for a victim’s family, requested the court that cases should be quashed only after compensation has been disbursed.

At this, the bench said: “We are asking the amounts to be deposited in this court… after that cases will be closed.”

Senior advocate Suhail Dutt, appearing on behalf of Italy, submitted that the amount of compensation payable in terms of the award dated May 21, 2020 will be deposited by his client with the Indian government in the particular account to be specified by the Ministry of External Affairs.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the top court that the Indian government has negotiated a good deal with the Italian government and cited the international tribunal order, which ruled that the criminal proceedings will be carried out against the marines by the Italian government.

Urging the court for the closure of cases, Mehta said the difficulty is that criminal proceedings are pending in international court and if international tribunal’s order is accepted, the trial court will have no jurisdiction. And, under these circumstances, only the top court can close the cases.

Mehta told the bench that after the Indian government receives money from the Italian government, it will be transferred in the top court account within three days.

At this, Chief Justice Bobde told Mehta: “We wish the government showed such promptness in other cases listed before us.” The SG, in a lighter vein, replied: “It depends on which ministry is involved in a case.”

The Italian government had offered a compensation of Rs 10 crore, out of which Kerala government proposed to disburse Rs 4 crore, to the dependents of each deceased and Rs 2 crore to the owner of the boat St. Antony.

“We direct that after the amount is received by the Union of India, the same shall be deposited in this court within a period of one week. List the matter on 19th April, 2021,” the top court said in its order.

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

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. (Agency)

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