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High court restrains Italian envoy from leaving India
Publication Date : 15-03-2013
In an unprecedented action, the Indian Supreme Court yesterday restrained the Italian Ambassador from leaving India without its permission even as the government began a review of the entire gamut of relations with Italy, which could result in downgrading of diplomatic ties over the marines issue.
Clearly unhappy over Italian government's refusal to send back marines charged with the killing of two Indian fishermen, a Bench headed by the chief justice also issued notices to the Ambassador and the two marines --Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone--asking them to file their response by March 18.
The apex court issued notices after Attorney General (AG) G E Vahanvati brought the issue before the Bench, saying that “it's a breach of undertaking given to the highest court of the land and the government is extremely concerned about it”.
The two marines were allowed by the apex court to go to Italy to cast their votes in the elections there after Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini had given an assurance to send them back.
Meanwhile, the government has initiated a review of the relations with Italy, which include diplomatic, trade and defence ties, apart from reaching out to the European Union, which was briefed on India's views and position in the matter.
Official spokesman in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the “entire expanse of our interaction” with Italy was being reviewed, while stressing that Italy has to “respect and abide” by the agreements between it and the Supreme Court.
“As part of our ongoing efforts following what the prime minister said in Parliament yesterday, we have initiated a study of our interaction with Italy. At the end of the internal process, we will take action that is appropriate, taking into account all aspects of our relationship,” he said. He was replying to whether the MEA will wait for further action till 18 March, the deadline given by the Supreme Court to the Italians to file their response.
Sources said India's Ambassador-designate to Italy B K Gupta, who was scheduled to leave for Rome today, is not proceeding there now.
They said that a decision on whether to expel the Italian Ambassador and on whether Gupta should take up the posting would also be taken after the review.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had warned Italy of “consequences” for bilateral ties if it did not send back the two marines. In a strongly worded statement in both Houses of Parliament, where the government came under attack on the issue, Singh accused Italy of “violating every rule of diplomatic discourse” and termed as “unacceptable” its decision not to send back the accused marines.
Answering a question on the Supreme Court order restraining Mancini from leaving the country, the spokesman said that no aspect of the Vienna Convention, which governs diplomatic relations between countries, was violated by the apex court notice to the envoy.
Significantly, as per the Vienna convention, the initiation of proceedings by a diplomatic agent or by a person enjoying immunity from jurisdiction shall preclude him from invoking immunity from jurisdiction in respect of any counterclaim directly connected with the principal claim.
Earlier in the day, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid met Singh after which he indicated that action will be taken against the Italian Ambassador. khurshid said everything will be done to ensure that “dignity and primacy” of India is preserved after Italy reneged on its assurance.
Amidst a diplomatic row with India, Italy has said it is on solid legal ground in seeking international arbitration in the case of the Italian marines charged with killing two Indian fishermen.
“We have juridically solid reasons to proceed in the direction of international arbitration,” Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi told reporters as he arrived at an international conference being hosted by an Israeli think-tank in the city of Herzliya. “The Indian government is amply apprised of all it needs to know about our reasons, as do many of our partners,” he was quoted as saying by media reports.
With reports from PTI