SC says can't trust Italian envoy, he has no diplomatic immunity

Last Updated: Mon, Mar 18, 2013 07:09 hrs

New Delhi: The Supreme Court adjourned the Italian marines' case till April 2. The court chided the Italian envoy for betraying the judiciary's trust, saying we don't trust you anymore.

The court, however, continued to restrain the Italian ambassador Daniele Mancini from leaving India till further orders, holding that he has no diplomatic immunity having gone back on his undertaking to the court and thus losing their trust.

The apex court said it would examine the immunity the ambassador enjoys but made it clear that it had not expected an envoy to behave in the manner that he did.

Mancini's lawyers claimed that the restraining order is invalid because he enjoys diplomatic immunity. Article 29 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961, states that diplomats shall "not be liable to any form of arrest or detention".

However, Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir, said, "A person who comes to court and gives an undertaking has no immunity."

India has insisted that Mancini willingly submitted himself to the jurisdiction of its top court by standing guarantee for the marines' return. 

The Supreme Court is hearing the case of two Italian marines who are facing a criminal trial here for shooting two fishermen in the high seas in Kerala last year, but who did not return from Italy during their last visit.

Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone were allowed to go to Italy first for Christmas and then for voting under an undertaking by the envoy that they would return to face trial, but during their second visit they chose not to come back to India.

Meanwhile, as the diplomatic row between Italy and India intensified over Italy's decision to not send back its two marines, the Italian Government had asked its citizens, especially those in the southern states, to be "vigilant and cautious."

"In connection with any protests, especially in the state of Kerala... it is recommended to compatriots in maintaining an attitude always vigilant and cautious and stay away from any crowds," the Italian embassy advisory had said.

Meanwhile, Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, who described the Italian government's refusal to send back the marines as "unprecedented", still hoped that the Supreme Court's order will be complied with by Italy as the deadline for their return ends on March 22.

"The communication by the Italian government declining to send back the marines after giving undertaking to the highest court of the country through its Ambassador is unprecedented," Kumar told a news agency today.

"The Prime Minister has already made a statement on the issue (in Parliament). The Attorney General (GE VAhanvati) will convey the government's stand tomorrow depending upon the response of the Italian government in the court tomorrow.

"It is sincerely hoped that the order of the Supreme Court will be complied with," he said.

Earlier on Saturday, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said that the Italian envoy in India Daniele Mancini is free to move amid reports of alerts on airports preventing him to leave the country over the Italian marine row, though he called the decision of Italy to not send back the marines facing trial in India as totally unacceptable.

The marines were to return by March 22.

The Supreme Court on Feb 22 had allowed the two Italian marines 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- Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone- were subsequently arrested.

More from Sify: