The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up Italian ambassador Daniele Mancini for breaching an undertaking given to the apex court and restrained him from leaving India till April 2, when it will hear the matter again.
The SC said a contempt of court charge would be made out only if the ambassador fails to bring back the marines by March 22.
Meanwhile, Italy has written to India saying no authority can restrict movement of its ambassador as such conditions will violate the Vienna Convention immunity to diplomats.
When the counsel for ambassador said the apex court could trust him not to run away from India, the SC bench said it no longer trusted him. “You have lost our trust,” the apex court said. The SC also refused to buy the diplomatic immunity claimed by the Italian ambassador, who said he had given the undertaking on behalf of the Italy government.
The apex court said it had permitted the marines to go home on sovereign guarantee after the Italy government and its ambassador submitted to the SC jurisdiction. The SC said it would be unacceptable to argue diplomatic immunity after voluntarily subjecting to court’s jurisdiction.
The Union government told the court that it has rejected March 15 note verbale from Italian embassy seeking full freedom of movement for its ambassador, who had been restrained by apex court from leaving India.
Referring to Italian note verbale telling India that no authority in India should impede movement of the ambassador in violation of diplomatic immunity, the Centre said the Italy government appears unaware of the constitutional scheme under which the government functions in India.
Italian ambassador Daniele Mancini had personally negotiated the release on bail of the two marines last month, enabling them to return to Italy to vote in the country’s general election.
After a year of disagreement over their fate between Rome and New Delhi, the Italian government announced last Monday that it would renege on its commitment to send the men back and they would remain at home.
A furious Indian government has warned of “consequences” and is reviewing its ties with Italy, while the Supreme Court ordered that Mancini should remain in the country and explain himself in court on Monday.
Orders were issued to Indian airports last Friday asking them to prevent Mancini from leaving if he tried to board a plane without permission.
The marines shot dead two fishermen off India’s southwestern coast in February last year when a fishing boat sailed close to the Italian oil tanker they were guarding. They say they mistook the fishermen for pirates.
Italy insists the marines should be prosecuted in their home country because the shootings involved an Italian-flagged vessel in international waters, but India says the killings took place in waters under its jurisdiction.
THE ROLE OF SONIA GANDHI
India’s foreign minister Salman Khurshid is of the opinion that any effort to link the Congress president Sonia Gandhi to the Italian marines issue is totally unfair. “It is extremely unfair to link Sonia Gandhi to the marines issue. The issue isn’t over yet and the government is waiting to see what happens on Monday in the Supreme Court, when the hearing in the case resumes,” remarked Khurshid.
ITALY IS NOT KNOWN TO ADHERE TO LAWS
How do you view the diplomatic crisis over Italian marines?
Italy is not exactly renowned globally for adherence to law. But we have behaved in a fashion that persuades people to question why the government has bent backwards in accommodating their sentiments.
(With inputs from AFP)