NEW DELHI – India’s top judge said Monday that the Italian ambassador cannot claim diplomatic immunity in a growing dispute over two Italian Marines who skipped bail while on trial for murder.
Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said Daniele Mancini, who had negotiated the marines’ release last month so they could vote in Italy’s election, had waived his immunity by giving an undertaking to a court that the pair would return.
“A person who comes to court and gives an undertaking has no immunity,” Kabir told a hearing into the case, which has caused a diplomatic crisis between Rome and New Delhi.
Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who are accused of murdering two Indian fishermen last year, had been given permission to fly to Italy to cast their votes on the understanding that they would return.
But the Italian government announced last week that it would renege on its commitment to send the men back, prompting fury in New Delhi.
The Indian government has warned of “consequences” and is reviewing its ties with Italy, while the Supreme Court ordered that Mancini should remain in the country and explain himself in court Monday.
Mancini’s lawyer argued that the diplomat enjoyed immunity in line with international rules that also guarantee foreign representatives freedom of movement. But he pledged that his client would stay in the country.
India’s Foreign Ministry has also argued that Mancini may have waived his immunity by willingly submitting himself to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court by signing a personal affidavit guaranteeing the return of the marines.
Without legal protection, he could be prosecuted for contempt of court.