Italian marines case: Supreme Court stays disbursement of Rs 2 crore relief to boat owner

The SUPREME Court on Thursday stayed the disbursement of the Rs 2 crore compensation, which it had directed to be paid to the owner of the fishing vessel St Antony involved in the 2012 Italian marines case.

A bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and V Ramasubramanian ordered the stay on an application filed by seven fishermen who were on board the fishing vessel when two Italian marines on board the oil tanker Enrica Lexie opened fire on February 15, 2012, killing two of the crew members, off the Kerala coast.

The seven fishermen had moved the court seeking a share in the compensation. Advocate Manish Dembla appearing for the seven told the court that they too were entitled to a share of the money but there was no direction to pay anything to them. The court directed him to also make the boat owner a party in the matter and issued notice to him.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta suggested that the fishermen’s plea can be sent to the Kerala High Court, which is entrusted with the task of disbursing the compensation, to which the bench said that a notice to vessel owner Freddy was necessary as any modification in the order will reduce his share.

“The notice of this application be given to the boat owner and in the meanwhile, we request the Kerala High Court not to disburse any amount to the boat owner in terms of the June 15, 2021 order,” the bench said in its order.

The SC on Tuesday closed all proceedings pending in the country against the two Italian marines – Master Sergeant Massimiliano Latorre and Sergeant Major Salvatore Girone – and directed that the criminal investigation in the matter can resume in Italy.

On July 15, allowing a request by the Centre, the court had quashed the FIR registered against the two marines.

This was because the Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) – of which India is a party – had delivered its award on May 21, 2020 under which the Italy agreed to pay compensation of Rs 10 crore, over and above the ex-gratia amount already paid, and also committed that it will resume its criminal investigation into the incident. Italy had accordingly deposited Rs 10 crore with India.

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