File-PTI Photo/ Vijay Verma
Italian Envoy Cannot Leave India: SC
In an unprecedented action, the Supreme Court today restrained the Italian Ambassador from leaving India without its permission even as government began a review of entire gamut of relations with Italy which could result in downgrading of diplomatic ties over 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 vote in the elections there after Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini had given an assurance to send them back.
Meanwhile, the government has initiated review of entire gamut of relations with Italy which includes diplomatic, trade and defence ties apart from reaching out to European Union, which was briefed on India's views and position in the matter.
Official spokesman in the Ministry of External Affairs 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 has said in Parliament yesterday, we have initiated a study of our interaction with Italy. At the end of the internal process, we will take further 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 March 18, the deadline given by the Supreme Court to the Italians to file their response.
Sources said India's Ambassador-designate to Italy Basant Kumar Gupta, who was scheduled to leave for Rome tomorrow, is not proceeding there now.
The sources 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 two marines facing trial in the country.
In a strongly-worded statement in both Houses of Parliament, where 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 Vienna Convention, which governs diplomatic relations between countries, was violated by the apex court notice to the envoy.
Significantly, as per 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.
However, it also adds that diplomats must not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. They are immune from civil or criminal prosecution, though the sending country may waive this right.
"As far as we are concern the first step in terms of inter-state relations or international public law is that agreements ought to be respected and we expect Italy to respect the agreement that their Ambassador voluntarily submitted to the highest court in India. That is the issue at stake.
"Everything else takes secondary importance because for us agreements need to be respected and abided by and we look forward to Italy as a country with a history to ensure that agreements are abided by. The agreements which they have provided to us through solemn assurance," he said.
Earlier in the day, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid met Singh after which he indicated that action will be taken against the Italian Ambassador here.
Khurshid said everything will be done to ensure that "dignity and primacy" of India in this matter is preserved after Italy reneged on its assurance given to the Supreme Court.
Asked about the briefing made to European Union on diplomatic stand-off between India and Italy, the sources said the Ambassador of the European Union here was conveyed New Delhi's position and views.
Meanwhile, Italian Foreign Minister has said Italy was on solid legal ground in seeking international arbitration in the case of the Italian marines.
"We have juridically solid reasons to proceed in the direction of international arbitration," Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi told reporters yesterday 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.
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