MATTERS RAISED WITH PERMISSION OF CHAIR
ITALY’S REFUSAL TO SEND BACK TWO MARINES ACCUSED OF
KILLING INDIAN FISHERMEN
THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION (SHRI ARUN JAITLEY): Mr. Deputy Chairman, Sir, it is with a deep sense of anguish and pain that as a nation, which has been deceived, I raise this issue of public importance. Two Italian marines, who were being prosecuted in Kerala for ostensibly killing Indian fishermen, have now absconded. And, they have absconded as a result of a deception, an outright fraud which has been practised on the Government of India and on the Indian Supreme Court by a sovereign nation. We have heard of State-sponsored terrorisms, but this act by a democratic country, which ostensibly claims to be committed to the rule of law, seems to be the first such case of a State-sponsored deception and a State-sponsored abduction. It is a State-sponsored abduction because they approached the Supreme Court of India ostensibly on the pretext first that the two persons being prosecuted had to go their homes to celebrate Christmas. Since we have a civilised jurisprudence in India, our court yielded to the request. The second one was a little curious that they wanted to go home in order to cast their votes. As per the little law that I understand, when you are in prison, you don’t have a right to cast a vote. So, if an Indian prisoner had approached an Indian court saying that just release me because I want to go and cast my vote, this request would never have been entertained.
(Contd. by 1O – GSP)
SHRI ARUN JAITLEY (CONTD.): Even for Italian citizens living elsewhere in the world, there is a facility available -- assuming that they were not in prison and they were outside -- and, I read from the Italian Interior Ministry’s notification, “The Italian citizens residing abroad are entitled to vote by mail for candidates.” So, they could have easily voted by mail. This appears to be a little pre-scripted. It is pre-scripted because even when your law provides a facility of voting by mail, you submit to the jurisdiction of the Indian Supreme Court, you want a facility to go abroad, and, an Order, which should never have been passed, gets passed, and, you are entitled to go abroad, subject to a sovereign undertaking. I say this with a sense of responsibility and I have reason to believe that this sovereign undertaking, though given by the Ambassador of Italy, is approved by the Prime Minister of Italy, and, this sovereign undertaking is given to the Indian Supreme Court. And, after the sovereign undertaking is given to the Indian Supreme Court, they go abroad, and, then, the Government of Italy turns around and says, ‘because we have disputes with regard to jurisdiction, we are not going to ask them to come back’, and, now they stand absconding from Indian law.
Well, disputes of jurisdiction can also be raised in Indian law, when our citizens are prosecuted. For 1984 incidents, which took place in India, people have filed prosecutions in the United States. We go and object that they have no jurisdiction. And, here is a country which has done this for the third time. In the 1980s, you had a Defence transaction, somebody absconds from India through Malaysia, Argentina, gets a refuge there, and, we are rendered helpless. In the VVIP helicopter deal, our officials go there and come back empty handed because we are now told that there will be evidence available against some of the Italian citizens plus others in India, who may be guilty of bribery, and, our investigation finds it difficult to proceed further.
This is an extreme case where there is a case of a State-sponsored deception, where, literally, you abscond from the jurisdiction of the Indian courts. What do we do under these circumstances, Sir? Are we a helpless State that India will do nothing in this matter?
Sir, my submission is that after these three experiences, now a time has come that when you deal with the Romans, deal as the Romans would deal, and, therefore, when they have broken every rule of diplomacy, it is the time for the Government of India to act and not to say that we are now bound by conventions of diplomacy.
Sir, I doubt seriously -- and, since the Law Minister is here, I would urge him to consider this -- whether the Ambassador, who has given a sovereign undertaking on behalf of the Government of Italy is entitled, in this case, to the benefit of what is, otherwise, referred to as diplomatic privilege. He submitted to the jurisdiction of the Indian Supreme Court. Once you submit to the jurisdiction, you can’t claim diplomatic privileges. Secondly, Sir, the Vienna Convention is a 1961, post-Constitutional Convention. We have legislated to give it a shape of a domestic law. A normal domestic legislation does not override the Constitution of India and the Supreme Court of India has power to punish for its own contempt, which is there under Article 129. The Vienna Convention will not override Article 129 of the Indian Constitution, and, in any case, the Law Minister may examine, can the post-Constitutional treaties, and the Vienna Convention being one, override the Constitution of India. I seriously doubt it, particularly, when the Government of Italy and their Ambassador have submitted to the jurisdiction of the Indian Supreme Court.
(Contd. by SK-1p)
SHRI ARUN JAITLEY (CONTD.): Therefore, Sir, a time has come, since we have been treated in this manner for the third time, I think, when we should forget diplomatic niceties. Sir, there is a very interesting quotation from something which is never so serious. It was one of the legendary characters created, and some of us may remember. He said, “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times, it’s enemy action”. This is James Bond, Ian Fleming’s famous quote. And this now must be treated in the category of an enemy action that you abduct a person, take him outside the jurisdiction of India and then say India can go to hell, we are not concerned. Therefore, this matter, the Government of India must respond to and must be taken up in all its seriousness.