"We will honour whatever assurance (was) given to Italy," said Union Home Secretary RK Singh while interacting with newspersons here. It is to be noted that when Rome refused to send back Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre after the Supreme Court allowed them to go to their homeland in February, Delhi ensured their return by promising that the duo will not be given the death penalty.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid later informed Parliament that Italy was against the marines being awarded capital punishment and had sought clarifications on the same.
He said that "According to well-settled Indian jurisprudence, this case would not fall in the category of matters which attract death penalty, that is to say the rarest of rare cases." Hence India had conveyed to Italy that "...there need not be any apprehension in this regard," he added.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has already booked the marines under Section 3 of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act.
The Act deals with crimes committed at sea and the maximum punishment under it for murder is the death sentence.
Incidentally, the NIA has also registered cases against the marines under sections 302 (murder), 427 (mischief) and 34 (common intent) of the Indian Penal Code.
However, the NIA can choose to drop some of these charges while filing the charge-sheet if it fails to find evidence which incriminates the accused.
Considering the home secretary's latest statement, it seems the marines do not have to worry too much about being put on the death row for killing Ajesh Binki and Valentine aka Gelastine.
The victims alongwith some other fishermen were on board the small trawler 'Saint Antony' when it neared MV Enrica Lexie on the evening of Feb 15, 2012. Fearing that pirates were about to attack the Italian tanker, Latorre and Girone opened fire at the trawler.