Italy has initiated money transfer for kin of Indian fishermen killed by its marines: Centre to SC


The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that Italy has initiated the transfer of ₹10 crore compensation to be given to the kin of two Indian fishermen killed by Italian Marines off the Kerala coast in February 2012.

The Centre told a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde that as soon as the money is received, the government will deposit it with the apex court as per the April 9 direction.

 

“We are awaiting the receipt of money,” advocate Rajat Nair, appearing for the Centre, told the Bench.

The Bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, was hearing the Centre’s application for closure of case against the two Italian marines — Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre.

At the outset, the Bench asked whether the amount has been deposited. Mr. Nair told the Bench that Italy has initiated the transfer of money.

“We will keep it next week,” the Bench said, adding that the Centre’s counsel had earlier insisted on an early hearing and on the last date said that money would be deposited within three days. “We know how fast you work,” the Bench observed.

Mr. Nair told the bench that money would be deposited in the apex court as soon as it is received.

 

On April 9, the top court had directed the Centre to deposit in its account ₹10 crore to be given by Italy for the kin of two Indian fishermen and said that the court itself will disburse the compensation.

The apex court had noted the submission of senior advocate Suhail Dutt, appearing for Italy, that compensation payable as per an international tribunal award dated May 21, 2020 will be deposited on that date itself by his client with India in account to be specified by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

In February 2012, India had accused the two marines 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).

During the hearing on April 9, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, had said the victims’ kin have consented for compensation of ₹10 crore above the ex-gratia amount already paid in the case.

Mr. Mehta had said the Centre has negotiated a good deal for the victims’ families from the Italian government and it has been accepted by them.

Mr. Mehta had said the Italian embassy has informed the MEA that it has agreed to pay ₹10 crore as combined compensation under all the heads of compensable loss identified by the arbitral tribunal’s award excluding the amount of ₹2.17 crore already paid by Italy to the families of the victim.

He had added that Kerala government has told the foreign secretary that it had consulted the victims’ families and they have consented in writing that they have agreed to the compensation.

Mr. Mehta had said the Kerala government in its letter to the foreign secretary has said the family members of the fishermen have agreed to its proposal that ₹10 crore paid by Italy as compensation will be distributed as — ₹4 crore to the dependents of each of the deceased and ₹2 crore to the owner of the boat St. Antony.

The Centre had earlier told the top court that Italy has assured the Indian government that it would prosecute the Marines there as per law and that maximum compensation will be ensured to the victims’ family members.

The Centre had referred to the last year’s ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague which held that India was entitled to get compensation in the case but can’t prosecute the marines due to official immunity enjoyed by them.

It had said the arbitration under United Nation Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS), which was instituted on a request from Italy, has delivered its Award on May 21, 2020.

Latorre, who had suffered a brain stroke on August 31, 2014, was first granted bail and allowed by the apex court on September 12, 2014 to go to Italy for four months and after that, extensions for his stay have been granted to him.

In Italy, Latorre underwent a heart surgery after which the top court granted him extension of his stay in his native country.

On September 28, 2016, the apex court had allowed Latorre to remain in his country till the international arbitral tribunal decided the jurisdictional issue.

On May 26, 2016, Girone was also granted bail with certain conditions and allowed by the top court to go to his country till the jurisdictional issue was decided.

The complaint against the marines was lodged by Freddy, the owner of fishing boat ‘St Antony’ in which two Kerala fishermen were killed when marines opened fire on them allegedly under the misconception that they were pirates.

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