Italy's decision not to send back its two marines to face trial for killing two fishermen off the coast of Kerala had its echo in the Kerala Assembly on Monday with CPI-M-led LDF opposition staging a walkout blaming the Centre and state governments for the present situation.
Speaking on a notice for an adjournment on the circumstances which led the two marines to leave the country, opposition leader VS Achuthanandan alleged the "interference of Congress President Sonia Gandhi" and also said "secret hands of Italy' worked in favour of the marines.
Denying the LDF charge, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy termed as "unfortunate" bringing the name of Gandhi into the issue.
Chandy said Gandhi had given her full support and co-operation to the steps taken by Kerala government on the marines case.
Chandy asserted that both Centre and state would see that the marines of the Italian ship "Enrica Lexie" Massimilliano Latore and Salvatore Girnoe, responsible for the death of two fishermen in February 2012, would be brought back to India to face trial.
Chandy also charged the Italian Ambassador with trying to save the marines under the cover of "Diplomatic Immunity." "Diplomatic Immunity is not a right to cheat a country or to show disrespect to a country and its justice system," the Chief Minister said.
The issue of marines was not a matter that has to be settled through diplomatic route, Chandy said, adding "they have to face trial for murder in Indian court".
Both the state and Centre had opposed the bail condition in the Supreme Court, Chandy pointed out.
Referring to opposition charge that delay in setting up the Special Court, as directed by the apex court to try the marine case, was also a factor that helped marines, Chandy said the process of setting up the Court was in the final stages.
Chandy said the statement of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Parliment on the issue that Italy should have to return the marines to face trial or have to face consequences, clearly demonstrated government's committment on the matter.
He also rejected the contention of the opposition that lawyers of state and Centre failed to present its case properly in the apex court and it led to marines going to Italy.
After the reply of Chandy, Speaker G Karthikeyan disallowed the notice for a motion moved by PK Gurudasan (CPM), who also criticised the AICC Chief for her "silence" on the matter.
The marines were permitted by the Supreme Court on February 22 to go to Italy for four weeks for voting in election, but the Italian government has informed India that they would not return.