New Delhi: Days after the Italian government refused to send back the two marines charged in the killing of two Indian fishermen in Kerala, Italian ambassador Daniele Mancini is expected to respond to the Supreme Court's notice on Monday. Will the apex court act against the envoy?
It could be Italy versus the Supreme Court on Monday. The apex court expects the Italian ambassador to explain why he didn't abide by his personal undertaking that the marines would return to India March 22.
"An undertaking is a promise made to court, that these people will be brought back to the court. I feel sorry that a country like Italy is behaving this way. In plain simple language, this is dishonourable," former Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee said.
But sources indicate there may be no affidavit after all. Daniel Mancini may seek more time to file his reply. He is also expected to claim full immunity under the Vienna Convention before the top court.
The Supreme Court could be lenient, giving the envoy more time while reasserting that he stays in India till he explains himself to the top court. Or, as custodian of the law, the court may initiate criminal contempt of court proceedings against the ambassador.
Attorney General GE Vahanvati's stand will be critical. The government could tell the court that the ambassador lost his immunity once he sought relief from the Supreme Court. But it may also advise caution in application of penalty because unlike the Supreme Court, the government is bound by the Vienna Convention and may find itself unable to execute any Supreme Court directive.
"When we share with the Supreme Court what is our understanding of the compulsions and obligations under the Vienna Convention, the A-G will give all the options and background to the court. The court will take a view," External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said.
The government is now caught between a rock and a hard place. If it moves to punish Mancini, it could technically breach Article 29 of the Vienna Convention. But letting him off will make India look like a soft state.