The top court last year brought the curtains down on the criminal proceedings initiated in India against the two Italian marines, who were accused of killing two fishermen in the incident, after an amount of Rs 10 crore was paid in compensation by the Italian government to the heirs of the deceased and the boat owner.
It had directed that the amount of Rs 10 crore, which was deposited in the apex court’s registry, be transferred to the Kerala High Court and of the total amount, Rs 4 crore each be paid to the heirs of the two deceased and Rs 2 crore to the owner of fishing boat “St Antony”.
Twelve fishermen, including the boat owner and a minor, were on board “St Antony” on the fateful day. Two of them were killed in the firing incident.
The minor subsequently committed suicide while another fisherman, Johnson, died during the pendency of the proceedings.
A bench of justices M R Shah and M M Sundresh was hearing an application of the seven affected fishermen seeking compensation for the sufferings faced by them due to the trauma following the incident.
The court took into record that the Arbitral Tribunal constituted under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS) had delivered its award on May 21, 2020, under which the Republic of Italy had agreed to pay a compensation amount of Rs 10 crore over and above the ex-gratia amount already paid to the deceased fishermen.
The counsel for the fishermen said the Arbitral Tribunal had decided that India was entitled to payment of compensation in connection with the loss of lives, physical harm, material damage to property and moral harm suffered by the captain and other crew members of the boat.
“This court on June 15, 2021 directed that Rs 2 crore be paid to the boat owner. We were not awarded the compensation despite the Arbitral Tribunal holding that they were entitled for compensation. This problem happened as earlier we were not part of the proceedings before the court and now, this court’s order comes in the way,” the counsel said.
The bench said the dispute is now limited to the distribution of Rs 2 crore between the captain-cum-boat owner and the other fishermen.
“We direct that from the Rs 2 crore to be paid to the captain and the boat owner, Rs 5 lakh each be paid to the seven affected fishermen, the widow of one of the fishermen, Johnson, who died during the pendency of the proceedings, and the legal heirs of the minor who had died after proper verification through account payee cheques,” the bench said and modified the court’s June 15, 2021 order.
At the outset, the counsel for Freddy said his consent for quashing the criminal case against the Italian marines — Massimilano Latorre and Salvatore Girone — was obtained by the government on the promise that he will be paid Rs 2 crore as compensation for the damage to the fishing boat and loss of business.
The bench said according to the arbitral award of May 21, 2020, compensation should be paid to the captain and other crew members of the boat and hence, Freddy cannot be given the entire amount of Rs 2 crore.
The bench then told the counsel for the fishermen that it will direct an amount of Rs 5 lakh each to be paid to them. The court’s suggestion was accepted by Freddy’s counsel.
The bench then passed the order and disposed of the application of the fishermen, while directing the Kerala High Court to disburse the amount lying with it as directed by it among the fishermen and the boat owner.
On June 15, 2021, the top court had said according to the international arbitral award accepted by India, Italy shall resume further investigation in the case against the two marines.
It had quashed the FIR registered at the Coastal police station of Neendakara in Kerala’s Kollam district and re-registered by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in 2013 and all the proceedings emanating from the case.
In February 2012, India had accused the two marines on board 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 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 were given to him.
Latorre underwent a heart surgery in Italy, after which the top court granted him an extension of his stay in his native country.
The complaint against the marines was submitted to police by Freddy, claiming that two fishermen were killed when the marines opened fire on them allegedly under the misconception that they were pirates.