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Kerala lashes out at Rawal remarks on firing from ship

Kochi, April 21 - Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy Saturday lashed out at Additional Solicitor General Harin Rawal for his mark that the state government had no jurisdiction to detain the Italian ship as firing from it took place outside India's territorial waters.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a party function, Chandy said the additional solicitor general's remark before the Supreme Court was contrary to the stand of the state government and that it as 'not the position of state or centre'.

'We checked up with the central government and it has been found what he said in the court yesterday (Friday) was not the stand of the centre. The centre's stand is the same as to what we have taken,' Chandy said.

All hell broke loose Friday when Chandy and the state government came under fire from the opposition after Additional Solicitor General Harin Rawal during a hearing informed the apex court that the state government had no jurisdiction to detain the Italian cargo ship as the firing from its took place outside the Indian territorial waters (20.5 nautical miles off the coast while Indian territory extends to only 12 nautical miles).

Two Italian marines Massimillano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, the Italian naval Marines detailed as security crew on cargo vessel Enrica lexie, were taken into judicial custody Feb 20 for the Feb 15 shooting of two Indian fishermen, Ajesh Binki, 25, and Gelastine, 45, about 14 nautical miles off Alappuzha coast in Kerala.

The Chandy government has decided to request the central government to ensure exclusion of Rawal in the next hearing of the case on April 30.

Central Minister M. Veerappa Moily, speaking to reporters in Thrissur, denied the opposition allegation that the change in the centre's stand was effected due to external influences.

'What was told in the court yesterday (Friday) was his personal opinion and not the position of the centre. Corrective measures would be taken,' said Veerappa Moily.

CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan Friday 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 Friday's stand of the centre, it is now clear that even the state government played hide and seek in this case,' Vijayan said.

Apart from the already appointed state government counsel, a senior lawyer would appear for the April 30 hearing.


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