Supreme Court worried if kin will ‘fritter away’ the money, Bench shifts the case to Tuesday for passing orders.
The Centre informed the Supreme Court on Friday that Italy has paid ₹10 crore compensation for disbursal among the families of fishermen allegedly shot dead/injured by two Italian marines detailed on Enrica Lexie, an Italian-flagged vessel in 2012, who mistook them for pirates off the coast of Kerala.
Italian marines case | India loses jurisdiction
Earlier this year, the government approached the Supreme Court for closure of the pending trial against the two Marines, Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre, following a United National tribunal decision that the duo would be tried in Italy. On April 9, the Supreme Court said it would consider passing an order to quash the criminal proceedings only after Italy deposited ₹10 crore as compensation for the bereaved families of the fishermen.
“They [Italy] have deposited ₹10 crore. This is compensation over and above the ex gratia amount paid earlier to the families. We have accepted the award of the tribunal as a nation. Kerala has filed an affidavit, saying ₹10 crore is acceptable to it. The affidavit has annexed letters of consent from the families also,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, submitted.
Also read: Our full coverage of the Italian Marines issue
For Italy, advocate Suhail Dutt, submitted that India’s jurisdiction over the Marines had stopped as soon as Italy paid the compensation amount.
The court, however, asked how the money would be apportioned among the families. The lawyer for the victims’ side said the two families would get ₹four crore each while the owner of the boat on which the fishermen were sailing would get ₹two crore. Kerala government lawyer senior advocate K.N. Balagopal said compensation could be paid to the victims through the State government.
The court expressed concern about whether the money received as compensation would be “frittered away” once it reached the families. The Bench asked whether any orders should be passed to protect the capital, like putting it in a fixed deposit, for the time being. “Four crore is not a small amount… It should not be frittered away. How do we protect their [families’] interests,” Justice Shah asked.
The victims’ lawyer said the legal heirs of the fishermen have attained the age of majority. Mr. Balagopal said the State had earlier conducted a preliminary verification of the legal heirs and found them responsible. The money the families had earlier received as ex gratia payments had been utilised well.
Justice Shah suggested that the Supreme Court dispose of the case by asking the Kerala High Court to disburse the amount. The Bench finally shifted the case to Tuesday for passing orders.
In April, the Supreme Court directed that the Republic of Italy transfer the compensation amount to an account number which would be handed over to it by the Ministry of External Affairs. The Ministry would in turn deposit the money with the Supreme Court.
The international tribunal’s finding that the Marines had immunity came seven years after the Supreme Court ordered the Centre to “proceed with the investigation and trial of the Marines” in a decision on January 18, 2013. The Supreme Court had ordered the Centre to set up a Special Court to try the case. Prior to the Supreme Court verdict, the Kerala High Court too had found that the Marines enjoyed no immunity.
However, in 2014, the Marines successfully gained a stay order on the investigation by the National Investigation Agency. A year later, the Supreme Court froze its own proceedings when the case reached the International Tribunal on Law of Seas. The Supreme Court later, in September 2015, had deferred the case till further orders.