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A private Indian security guard walks into the Italian Embassy in New Delhi on March 13, 2013. — Photo by AFP

NEW DELHI: India's top court on Thursday temporarily barred the Italian ambassador from leaving the country, the latest escalation in a dispute over the killing of two Indian fishermen by Italian marines.

India had summoned the Italian ambassador this week to protest against Rome's decision not to send two marines charged with killing the fishermen while on anti-piracy duty back to India to face trial.

Separately, an Indian politician who heads a regional party has filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the Italian government over the decision.

The court ordered ambassador Daniele Mancini not to leave India, and to respond to the petition by March 18, raising questions about whether this violated the envoy's diplomatic immunity.

“The Chief Justice issued a notice to the Italian ambassador stating not to leave the country and has sought a reply from the ambassador by March 18,” said Viplav Sharma, defence counsel for the Italian marines.

India's Supreme Court had allowed Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone to return home for four weeks to vote in last month's general election, provided they returned.

They have not done so, and Italy's Foreign Ministry said the incident had become a formal dispute over UN laws.

“(The dispute) has shaken the confidence of the people whether foreign powers can take our Supreme Court so lightly. It is a very serious contempt,” Subramanian Swamy, the politician who filed the petition, told reporters on Thursday.

India's Supreme Court said in a long-awaited ruling in January that India had jurisdiction to try the marines, but Italy has challenged that decision, arguing that the shooting took place in international waters.

The sailors arrived back in Italy on February 23, a day before the country's election, after India's Supreme Court granted their request to exercise their right to vote.

Italy's announcement the sailors would not return has sparked fury in India. The case has caused an uproar in parliament and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government is under pressure to respond forcefully.

Singh issued an unusually strong statement on Wednesday in which he accused Italy of violating “every rule of diplomatic discourse” and warned that if the sailors did not return “there will be consequences for our relations with Italy”.

“We have to take steps, there is no question that we won't take any steps,” Salman Khurshid, India's foreign minister, told reporters on Thursday.

“You can be certain that this is a matter that will be treated with the greatest urgency. It will be treated with determination to ensure that we do not suffer.”

A government official said India was weighing what steps it could take, including expelling the ambassador, but that it was unlikely to take any action before March 22, when the sailors are due to appear again in court.

“I am the envoy. I will represent the government of Italy until the very moment when (a competent authority) would declare me persona non grata,” Mancini told reporters on the sidelines of an event in New Delhi late on Wednesday.

Comments (10) Closed

Bbbb Mar 14, 2013 11:25am
Good job.
Kuladeep Patil Mar 14, 2013 11:22am

why does Italy want to create un neccessary dispute with India???

rich Mar 14, 2013 11:03am

if the italian ambassodor had given an undertaking that the maurderers would return, and if they do not retirn then the ambassador or whoever it was who had give a gurantee of their return should be taken to court and jailedk, and fir should be filed immediately against them, regarding the 2 criminal an interpol notice should be issued

Richie Rodrigues Mumbai

salman Mar 14, 2013 10:09am

Where was Pakistani Supreme court ? when three Pakistanis were killed by Ramand Davis an American spy in Lahore.

ohhhhhh Mar 14, 2013 02:00pm

Good job India...

Ali Hassan Mar 14, 2013 03:34pm
About time someone stands up to the EU. Justice should be served. Italy would have done the same if two of its citizens had been killed by the Indians.
Mahan Mar 14, 2013 06:35pm
That is a big time loss of trust. It was intentional deceipt.
Manzar Mar 14, 2013 06:40pm
Why Italian marines, are in Indian ocean? Why not SARC forces defend our waters? SARC members should think over in next meeting.
Murugesaya Mar 14, 2013 07:27pm
Where the honourable Indian Supreme court has gone When so many Indian citizens (Tamil fishermen from Tamil Nadu) have been captured, tortured and killed by Srilankan army on a daily day to day basis. The Indian supreme and Indian Government are partial by means of their great injustice to tamil Nadu people. Oh poor tamils atleast awake now. One type of Justice to Kerala people and other type of justice to tamil nadu. GREAT INDIAN PARTIALITY FOR THEIR OWN PEOPLE
A.J.Siddiqui Mar 15, 2013 01:03am
Indian Courts are kangaroo courts. Nobody takes them seriously.