Italy suffered a setback in its efforts to have the Indian Supreme Court strike down the prosecution of two Italian ship guards charged with the killing of Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast last February.
Dismissing an appeal by Rome to quash the trial, the nation’s highest court on Friday ordered the central government to set up a special court to try the naval guards.
“The shooting of the two Indian fishermen by Italian naval guards is a federal crime and hence, only the central government can have jurisdiction to deal with the case,” the court said.
Rome petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the appeal after an Indian high court in May last year ruled that the armed guards were liable to be tried in a local state court.
The armed guards were part of a six-member security detachment aboard the Enrica Lexie, an Italian-flag oil tanker, sailing from Singapore to Egypt. The tanker was released by local authorities in May after ship owner Dolphin Tankers furnished a $600,000 surety bond and an undertaking to cooperate with the trial.
The arrest and jailing of the ship guards drew a sharp protest from the Italian foreign ministry, which argued that the deployment of armed guards on Italian-flag merchant ships was regulated by a specific Italian law and the case should be dealt with under the Italian legal system. But the Supreme Court decision now confirms conclusively that Indian courts have jurisdiction in the case.
The ruling comes a month after the Italian foreign ministry expressed deep concern over lengthy delays in deciding its petition by the Supreme Court.