In a blow to Italy’s efforts, the Supreme Court on Tuesday denied Italian marine Massimiliano Latorre permission to stay back in his country for two more months for heart surgery and his fellow marine Salvattore Girone permission to travel to Italy for Christmas.
Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu said, “The Indian victims also have rights.”
The court said the probe into the 2012 killing of Indian fishermen off Kerala is not over and that “yardstick should be the same for everyone” and “the system should work”.
In September 2014, the Bench led by Justice Dattu had taken a “humanitarian” view of Mr. Latorre’s medical condition after he suffered a brain stroke and agreed to let him travel to Italy for four months. He was scheduled to return on January 16.
Senior advocate Soli Sorabjee, counsel for the marine, submitted that he was due for a heart surgery on January 8 and wanted an extension of two to three months.
“No. Please ask him to come back,” the Chief Justice told Mr. Sorabjee.
The CJI orally observed that it wss on Mr. Latorre’s instance that the probe and trial in the case has been stopped. When Mr. Sorabjee pleaded that no one is going to be prejudiced by a gap of just two months, the CJI responded that this was not a question of prejudice but that of “applying the same yardstick for everybody”.
“As you have a right, the victims too have a right. The investigation is not complete. Charge sheet is not filed. Sorry,” the CJI said.
Sources in the government said the instructions from the Ministry for External Affairs was to oppose Mr. Girone’s application, but let the court take a call on Mr. Latorre’s plea for extension of time.
The marines were similarly given permission to travel for Christmas in 2013, but had failed to return. It was only after the Supreme Court made stern observations against Ambassador Daniel Mancini that they be returned, counsel for Kerala Ramesh Babu told the media after the hearing.