Italian marines case: SC asks Kerala HC not to disburse compensation to fishing vessel owner

The bench considers the plea of seven surviving fishermen, who were also on the fishing vessel, that they, too, were eligible for the compensation from Rs 2 crore earmarked by the apex court for the boat owner

Italian marines case: SC asks Kerala HC not to disburse compensation to fishing vessel owner

Photo for representation only. iStock

New Delhi, August 19

Taking note of a plea by some fishermen seeking compensation, the Supreme Court Thursday directed the Kerala High Court not to disburse any amount from Rs 2 crore earmarked for the owner of fishing vessel ‘St Antony’ in which two fishermen were killed by Italian marines in 2012.

A bench comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and V Ramasubramanin considered the plea of 10 surviving fishermen, who were also on the boat, that they too were eligible for the compensation from Rs 2 crore  earmarked by the apex court for the boat owner.

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 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.

Lawyer Manish Dembla, appearing for the fishermen, said Freddy and heirs of the two deceased have been given compensation.

Freddy, for whom Rs 2 crore out of total Rs 10 crore compensation has been earmarked, was also paid Rs 17 lakh ex-gratia earlier for the damage to the vessel which was worth Rs 10 lakh only, Dembla said.

Urging the top court to modify its June 15 order by providing some compensation to the surviving fishermen, Dembla said that one of the four grounds for seeking  damages in the case was injuries, including mental, which were also sustained by his clients.

“Kerala government has now said no compensation will be given to us on account of the latest order of the Supreme Court and we just want that the Rs 2 crore compensation, payable to the boat owner, be stayed,” he said.

The bench said Freddy should be made party instead of the Centre as only he can oppose this plea.

Referring to the earlier order, the bench said there was nothing for the boat crew and the amount was to be paid to the heirs of the deceased and the vessel owner.

“Now if we modify this, the amount for other beneficiary will go down. We can issue notice to the boat owner and decide to modify the order,” the bench said, adding that it may request the Kerala high Court to decide it, but it can be done only after hearing Freddy.

On June 15, the top court had brought the curtains down on the 9-year old pending criminal proceedings in India against two Italian marines, Massimilano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who were accused of killing the two fishermen, after Rs 10 crore in compensation was paid by Italy to the heirs of the deceased and the boat owner.

It directed Rs 4 crore each be given to the dependents of two deceased fishermen and the rest Rs 2 crore would be given to the vessel owner.

The top court had referred the matter to the Kerala High Court to oversee the disbursement.

In the fresh plea, the 10 fishermen said they were also injured in the incident and hence, entitled for the compensation. They have sought a stay on the disbursement till their claims are determined.

The top court had also said earlier that as per the international arbitral award accepted by India, Italy shall resume further investigation in the case against the two marines and quashed the FIR, registered at Coastal Police Station of Neendakara, Kollam in Kerala and re-registered by NIA in 2013, and all the proceedings in the case.

It had closed the case after the Arbitral Tribunal constituted under Annex VII of UNCLOS delivered its award on May 21, 2020 under which Italy agreed to pay Rs 10 crore compensation, over the ex-gratia amount already paid.

“We also further direct that the amount of Rs 10 crore now lying with the Registry of this Court be transferred to the High Court of Kerala, out of which Rs 4 crore be paid to the heirs of each deceased and Rs 2 crores be paid to the owner of the boat - St. Antony,” the bench had said.

It had requested the Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court to nominate a Judge to pass appropriate order of disbursement/investment of the amount to the heirs and ensure the compensation is duly received by them and not diverted/ misappropriated.

“The remaining amount of Rs 2 crore be paid to the owner of the boat - St. Antony by an account payee cheque,” the bench had said.

The top court noted that Kerala, the heirs of the deceased fishermen and the owner of the boat have agreed to accept the award.

In February 2012, India had accused the two marines on board the MV Enrica Lexie—an Italian flagged oil tanker—of killing two Indian fishermen who were on a fishing vessel in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Latorre, who had suffered a brain stroke on August 31, 2014, was first granted bail and allowed by the apex court on September 12, 2014 to go to Italy for four months and after that, extensions have been granted to him.

In Italy, Latorre underwent a heart surgery after which the top court granted him extension of his stay in his native country.

The complaint against the marines was lodged by Freddy on whose vessel two Kerala fishermen were killed when marines opened fire on them under the misconception that they were pirates. PTI

Tribune Shorts


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