New Delhi: In a new twist to the India-Italy row over the decision of the Italian government to not send back the two marines facing trial here for gunning down two Kerala fishermen in the high seas last year, the Supreme Court on Thursday restrained the Italian ambassador in India Daniele Mancini from leaving the country.
Mancini had given an undertaking to the Supreme Court that he would ensure that the two marines returned to India after they were allowed to go to Italy for taking part in the voting in that country.
Issuing a notice to the ambassador based on the response to the court by India's Attorney General, the Supreme Court asked Mancini to respond to its notice by Mar 18. The case would be heard again on Mar 19.
Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy also filed a contempt of court petition before the SC seeking action against the Italian ambassador for failing to honour the commitment to the apex court.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid also met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the issue and said the Attorney General will explain the government's position and understanding in court which will take a final call.
"It will be treated with greatest urgency and determination," he said.
"The feelings of our people will be kept foremost. What PM has said is important. We leave it to the court to pronounce whether we are on sound legal footing," said Khurshid.
A day ago Italian ambassador Daniele Mancini said the governments of India and Italy are friends and the Italian government wants to work with Indian government with all possible manners.
His comments came on a day when India said it is weighing with the option of even expelling the Italian ambassador in New Delhi in the face of that country's decision to not send back for trial here the two Italian marines.
The marines were permitted to go home to Italy for voting but later Italy said they will not send them back to India for trial.
Mancini had given the Supreme Court of India a written undertaking that the two men would be back in four weeks.
India's Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai earlier summoned Mancini to lodge a strong protest by India over their action and breach of trust.
The marines were to return by March 22.
The Supreme Court on Feb 22 had allowed the two Italian marines- Salvatore Latorre and Massimiliano Girone-to travel to Italy to cast their votes in the country's elections.
Accusing Indian authorities of violating international rights by detaining the marines, Italy's Foreign Ministry said it was “open” to let an international arbitrator to assess the case.
They said India had not responded to Italian requests to seek a diplomatic solution to the case and there was now a “dispute” between the two countries over the terms of the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea.
On Feb 15, 2012, the security officials of Italian cargo vessel Enrica Lexie allegedly shot dead two Indian fishermen mistaking them as pirates in the high seas off Ambalapuzha in Kerala. They were subsequently arrested.