Supreme Court: In the 2012 incident wherein two fishermen were killed while fishing off the coast of Kerala after allegedly two Italian Military Naval officials fired at them from a passing ship, the bench of Indira Banerjee and MR Shah*, JJ has closed all the proceedings against the marines in India including criminal proceedings in exercise of powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India.
Criminal proceedings were initiated against the marines after the Kerala police apprehended them and two months after the incident, the Republic of Italy made ex-gratia payment of compensation to the legal heirs of the deceased persons. The vessel, from which the shots were fired, was allowed to sail away, subject to certain terms and conditions along with all 24 crew members, only after the order passed by the Supreme Court in May, 2012. The unfortunate incident had occurred in February, 2012.
Important facts that persuaded the Court to close the proceedings
- the Arbitral Tribunal constituted under Annex VII of UNCLOS has delivered its award dated 21.05.2020 under which the Republic of Italy has agreed to pay the compensation of Rs. Ten crores, over and above the amount of ex-gratia amount already paid
- the Arbitral Tribunal has also duly recorded Republic of Italy’s commitment that following the award Italy will resume its criminal investigation into the incident of 15.02.2012.
As an aftermath of the Arbitral Tribunal’s award, the Republic of Italy deposited the said amount of Rs. Ten Crores and the State of Kerala as well as the heirs of the deceased fishermen and even the owner of the boat which was damaged agreed to accept the award.
The Court was, hence, of the opinion that
“…the amount of compensation of Rs. Ten Crores over and above the ex-gratia amount of compensation already paid to the heirs of the deceased fishermen offered and deposited by the Republic of Italy, deposited pursuant to award dated 21.05.2020 passed by the Arbitral Tribunal can be said to be a reasonable amount of compensation and can be said to be in the interest of heirs of the deceased, we are of the view that this is a fit case to close all the proceedings in India including criminal proceedings in exercise of powers under Article 142 of the Constitution of India.”
It was hence, directed that Rs. Ten Crores now lying with the Supreme Court Registry be transferred to the High Court of Kerala, out of which Rupees Four Crores be paid to the heirs of each deceased and Rs. Two crores be paid to the owner of the boat – St. Antony.
However, the Court clarified that while disbursing the amount of compensation to the heirs of the deceased fishermen, i.e, Rs. Four Crores to the dependents/heirs of each deceased, their interest is also required to be protected so that the amount of compensation paid to them is not frittered away, by investing the amount in the name of the dependents/heirs of each deceased in a Fixed Deposit in a nationalised bank for some time and they will be paid the periodical interest accrued thereon.
The Court, hence, asked the Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court to nominate a Judge to pass appropriate order of disbursement/investment of the amount to be paid to the heirs of each deceased (Rupees Four Crores each) so as to protect the interest of the heirs and ensure that the compensation is duly received by the heirs and not diverted/misappropriated. The order of disbursement/investment is to be passed after hearing the heirs of each deceased and appropriate order be passed, protecting the best interest of the heirs of each deceased.
[Massimilano Latorre v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 428, decided on 15.06.2021]
*Judgment by: Justice MR Shah
For Petitioner(s): Mr. Suhail Dutt, Sr. Adv.
Mr. Diljeet titus, Adv.
Mr. Jagjit Singh Chhabra, AOR
Mr. Ujjwal Sharma, Adv.
Mr. Baljit Singh Kalha, Adv.
Mr. Ninad Laud, Adv.
Mr. Akshat Bhatnagar, Adv.
Ms. Ananyaa Mazumdar, Adv.
Mr. Saksham Maheshwari, Adv.
For Respondent(s): Mr. Tushar Mehta, SG
Mr. Aman Lekhi, ASG
Mr. S.A. Haseeb, Adv.
Mr. Suhashini Sen, Adv.
Mr. Rajat Nair, Adv.
Mr. B. V. Balaram Das, AOR
Mr. G. Prakash, AOR
Mr. Jishnu M.L., Adv.
Ms. Priyanka Prakash, Adv.
Ms. Beena Prakash, Adv.
Mr. C. Unnikrishnan, Adv.
Mr. A. Karthik, AOR
Ms. Smrithi Suresh, Adv.
Ms. Sreepriya K., Adv.
Mr. Arsh Khan, Adv.