Salman Khurshid – Italian marines case
Salman Khurshid – Italian marines case

New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has justified India’s stand to drop plans to prosecute the two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen under a tough anti-piracy law, offering a chance to end the diplomatic row with Italy.

Attorney General Ghoolam Vahanvati has told the Supreme Court that the prosecution does not intend to proceed against Marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone under the anti-piracy section of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts. He gave no reason for this step on the part of the government.

Khurshid said it was a reasonable and objective stand of the Indian Government in the apex court.

“This is the most reasonable and objective thing that we could have done. There may have been decisions in the past that created confusion about one aspect that have been clarified before the court. Now the court will finally decide what it thinks is the right thing to do, and it will make a pronouncement which we will follow,” Khurshid said.

Khurshid has also blamed former Home Secretary and now BJP leader Raj Kumar Singh for delaying action on the case that created diplomatic tension between the two countries.

“The Supreme Court has to address something again and again. Who should be responsible for it? Who would be responsible for it? I would imagine the person who is in the hot seat. Who has to take the decision? He would be responsible. Don’t ask me. Why don’t you ask the person who has taken that decision on whether they have done the right thing, or they haven’t,” he added.

Italy had strongly opposed India invoking the law, arguing that it would amount to treating the men as “terrorists” and last week it recalled its ambassador to New Delhi in protest against the delay in the two-year-old case.

The marines who are part of a military security team protecting a privately-owned cargo ship, say they mistook the fishermen for pirates, and fired warning shots into the water during the incident in February 2012, off the coast of Kerala state.

The government had originally sought to prosecute the marines under the piracy law partly because the incident occurred outside the geographical area covered by the country’s criminal code.

The men can still be tried under India’s criminal laws, but the punishment there in case of a conviction is ordinarily less stringent than under the piracy law.

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