Kochi: In a bid to persuade India to hand over its two arrested marines charged with murder for killing two fishermen, Italy told the Kerala High Court on Thursday it has initiated criminal proceedings against them under its law that could lead to a prison term of not less than 21 years.
The police custody of the two Italian marines Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Gironi was meanwhile extended till March 5 by a Kollam court. The two accused are in police custody since February 20.
A communication from the Deputy Attorney Dr Eliza Betta Cenicola stating that as per Article 575 of Italian Penal code whoever causes death of a person was punishable with a prison term of not less than 21 years was filed in the High Court by counsel for Italian government and the two marines. The case has led to a diplomatic stand-off between India and Italy.
During the proceedings in the High Court, Justice PS Gopinathan ticked off the Italian government, pointing out "serious defects" in its plea seeking quashing of FIR against the two marines and sternly told them it will look into the
petition only after these are "cured".
Italian government should not have an impression that the Indian Judiciary was so loose that anyone could file a plea before courts, he said in the open court.
The judge directed the Consul General to produce necessary documentary evidence to show that the Consulate has the authorisation to represent Italian government in legal proceedings relating to the killing of the fishermen by the
marines on board the cargo ship Enrica Lexie off the Kerala coast last month.
The judge even expressed doubt whether the signature of one of the accused affixed in the affidavit produced before the court was genuine.
Even though senior counsel for the petitioners repeatedly requested the court to look into the documents, the court refused and directed the petitioners to "cure" the defects.
Only after "curing" the defects, the documents would be looked into, the judge held.
India maintains that since the incident took place within its waters, the marines must face a trial as per Indian law. Italy has said that as members of the Navy, the marines are entitled to immunity abroad and should be tried in their home country.