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India's Maritime Jurisdiction

The Supreme Court of India's ruling in the case of the two Italian marines who shot two Indian fishermen to death, underscores the objective territorial principle of jurisdiction. It is also a measure of both acquiescence in the protective and passive personality principles of jurisdiction and a recognition of the restrictions on jurisdiction under international law.

In a case filed by Italy against India, the Supreme Court (SC) of India held that India has, subject to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982 (UNCLOS) and its directions, jurisdiction to prosecute the two Italian marines responsible for the shooting which killed two Indian fishermen at a distance of about 20.5 nautical miles off the Indian coast of the state of Kerala.1

While on its way to the Republic of Djibouti on 15 February 2012, the Italian ship, Enrica Lexie came across the Indian fishing vessel St Antony and allegedly mistook it for a pirate vessel. Due to the shooting that came from the Italian ship two persons on the Indian fishing vessel were killed. On 19 February 2012, the two Italian marines (petitioners 2 and 3 in the writ petition) responsible for the shooting were arrested and remanded to judicial custody.2 They filed a writ petition (4542 of 2012) before the Kerala High Court (HC), challenging the jurisdiction of the state of Kerala to register the first information report (FIR 2/2012) and to conduct investigation.

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