New Delhi (AsiaNews) - "The case of the Italian marines will not be resolved before the general elections in India" in May, said a local source. Speaking to AsiaNews anonymously for security reasons, he is said, "The case is following a normal pace."
The case in question involves Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, two marines from Italy's San Marco Regiment, who are on trial in India over the death of two fishermen in February 2012.
The trail is proceeding "neither too fast nor too slow," the source said. "Had it been over quickly, it would have caused emotional reactions, and any verdict would have been deemed 'hasty'. However, the issue must be settled, and it will."
This morning, the Supreme Court of India agreed to hear on 18 February petitions filed by the Italian Government against the Indian Government's decision to invoke anti-piracy and anti-terrorism legislation against the two Italian marines accused of killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast.
Section 3(1) A of Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platform on Continental Shelf Act (SUA) provides for a maximum punishment of 10 years for acts of violence against any person on a ship or fixed platform.
Previously, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the federal agency investigating the case, had invoked Section 3(1) G of the same Act, which provides for mandatory death penalty in cases causing death.
In Italy, India's decision sparked an intense debate. Italian authorities accused India of not living up to its pledge that it would not apply the death penalty on its two marines.
In India, "there is no debate over the issue," the source told AsiaNews. "After an initial emotional phase, fuelled by rhetoric and national pride, reactions were muted. The affair is no longer front-page news, nor is it being discussed. Even reports that the authorities would ask for ten years rather than the death penalty did not cause any anger."
Even though India's "International relations are also at stake," in the end, "India's judiciary is going at it at its own pace," the source explained.
The upcoming election is another factor. In May, the country will go to the poll, and voters will have to choose between the secular democratic Congress Party, led by Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu ultra-nationalist party.
"Whatever the verdict, the parties could use the affair to divide the population and gain sympathy. Thus, a conclusion is not likely before the election."
"I think they [the two Italian marines] will be convicted, but will receive a light sentence," the source said. "I also think they will purge it in Italy, not India".