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Ensure Italian ambassador doesn't leave India: SC

Monday March 18, 2013 10:37:48 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini has lost its "trust", the Supreme Court said Monday and barred him from leaving India. The judges said a person who comes and gives an undertaking before court could not claim diplomatic immunity.

The court directed Indian authorities to comply with its March 14 order restraining Mancini from leaving the country.

An apex court bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice Anil R. Dave and Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, while extending its earlier order restraining Mancini from leaving the country, said a person who came here and gave an undertaking could not claim immunity.

Giving vent to its displeasure over the manner in which the Italian government conducted itself over issue, Chief Justice Kabir said: "Some people are writing that we are naive."

"We don't expect the government of republic of Italy to behave like this. What do they think about our courts and judicial system? We don't accept any assurance from you that you don't intend to leave (India). You have lost our trust," he said.

The court brushed aside the contention of Mancini's senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi that the ambassador enjoyed diplomatic immunity and said that he had given an assurance which had to be honoured.

As Rohtagi sought to persuade the court that his client enjoyed diplomatic immunity, Chief Justice Kabir said: "We will look into it."

The development follows Rome's refusal to send back two Italian marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone to face trial for killing two Indian fishermen, Ajesh Binki and Valentine, off Kerala coast Feb 15, 2012, mistaking them for pirates.

The court will hear the case next April 2.

Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati earlier took the judges through the sequence of events leading to the court permitting the two marines to return to their country for four weeks so that they could exercise their franchise in Italy's national elections and be with their families.

As Vahanvati mentioned the assurance given by the Italian ambassador on the return of the two marines, the court said that its orders permitting the two marines to go back to their country for four weeks were yet to be violated, as the deadline for them to return was fixed for March 23.

Vahanvati informed the court of a "Note Verbale" the external affairs ministry had received from Italian embassy March 15, which pointed to the obligation of the host country (India) to protect the diplomatic agent under the Vienna Convention.

Referring to the provisions of the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations, 1961, the note said: "Any restriction to the freedom of movement of the ambassador of Italy to India, including any limitation to his right of leaving the Indian territory, will be contrary to the international obligations of the receiving state to respect his person, freedom, dignity and function."

In an obvious pointer to the March 14 apex court order restraining the ambassador from leaving India, the note said: "The Embassy of Italy expects therefore that the ministry of external affairs will ensure full compliance with the privileges and immunities contemplated in the convention, and provide reassurance that no Indian authority shall impose or implement restrictive measures on the personal freedom of his excellency the ambassador."

The note also said that the external affairs ministry would take all the measures for protecting the personal safety of Mancini and that of its other diplomatic staff.

It also sought the security of its diplomatic premises, including those at Mumbai and Kolkata, and the other premises being used by Italians.

Italy claims the shooting incident occurred in international waters and wants to get Latorre and Girone tried in its courts.

India says the trial should occur here, and set up a special court in the national capital to try the case.





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