Thiruvananthapuram - Relatives of the two Indian fishermen shot dead by Italian marines in February and Kerala's fishing community Friday assailed the central government for letting them down, after a government lawyer told the apex court that the state government had no jurisdiction in the matter.
Following a petition filed by the owners of Italian vessel Enrica Lexie that the ship should be allowed to leave, the additional solicitor general Friday told Supreme Court that the Kerala
government does not have the authority to register a case because the incident happened in the international waters.
As the news spread, Derrick, son of killed fisherman Gelastine, told reporters that the central government's changed stand in the court was wrong and tantamount to cheating them.
"Till now the centre had told us that they are with us and now they have turned against us. It seems that there has been a deep rooted conspiracy and hence they have gone against us to favour the Italians. We have been left high and dry," said Derrick, a plus two student.
T. Peter, head of the Kerala Independent Fish Workers Federation, said that the disclosure by the government counsel is shocking and unacceptable.
"The centre is playing hide and seek. When the federal minister was here, they took a stand in favour of us. This turnabout is not acceptable and we are going to protest this by organising a
human chain on April 28," he said.
State Home Minister T. Radhakrishnan said that he had only learnt of the development now, and asserted the government would stand with the fishermen.
"The state government's stand on this issue has been loud and clear. We have had a consistent stand on this and there has been no let down on this. We are going to seek the opinion of
legal experts and would take up this issue," he said.
The opposition Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) accused the Congress-led central and state governments of deception.
Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan asked Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to condemn the position taken by the central government.
"The Kerala government failed to brief the additional solicitor general in the case where two precious Indian lives was lost in a cold-blooded murder. Today both the centre and state have
joined hands to save the murderers," he said.
"The fear here was that the centre will take a different stand after the Piravom assembly by-election (held last month), appears to have come true. It is astonishing to note that the state
government did not oppose the centre's stand today (Friday)," said CPI-M leader and former minister M. Vijayakumar.
CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan alleged that the development proved the "relationship between the Congress party and Italy".
"There was a lot of delay as police got access to the ship after a few days of the shooting and by then vital evidences might have been erased. With today's (Friday) stand of the centre, it is
now clear that even the state government also played hide and seek in this case," he said.
Italian marines, Latorre Massimillano and Salvatore Girone, were arrested Feb 20 and sent to judicial custody for shooting dead two Indian fishermen, Ajesh Binki, 25, and Gelastine, 45, Feb
15, off Alappuzha. The marines, posted on the Enrica Lexie, had allegedly mistaken the two for pirates.