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SC asks Center, treat all Foreign Nationals equally, why detain French when Italians are Home

Judiciary in India
Judiciary in India

November,7,2015 Putting the government in the dock over its contradictory stand, the Supreme Court on Friday questioned the Centre on why it had allowed two Italian marines, accused of shooting two Kerala fishermen, to be released when it is now opposed to letting a French woman out of jail despite an undertaking by the French Embassy. The top court asserted that the government should respect every nation equally.

“What can be your problem if the French government is willing to stand surety for this lady by giving its undertaking? You let the foreign nationals (Italian marines) in the other case go back to their country on the basis of such an undertaking. If you respect Italian government then you should also respect French government,” observed a bench led by Justice Kurian Joseph.

But Additional Solicitor General (ASG) P S Patwalia, appearing for the the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), opposed the release of 55-year-old French national Marie Emmanuelle Verhoeven, arguing she may flee the country once she is released.

Verhoeven is alleged to have participated in the assassination of Chilean senator Jaime Guzman Errazuriz on April 1, 1991. She has denied the charge and claimed that she was falsely implicated due to her participation in special human rights missions.

Patwalia contended that Chilean authorities have written to India to detain her so that she can be extradited. The bench pointed out that the French government has given a specific undertaking — that she would remain in India and will cooperate with any proceeding. “If this kind of an undertaking is given, what could be your problem? India should have respect for every country equally.

Why give preference to one country? You have done it for one government. You should also respect Italian government. After all, it is a comity of nations,” retorted the bench. The SC bench noted that the woman has been detained since February this year while all proceedings related to the Red Corner Notice and her extradition to Chile remain pending till date. “Further, there has been an adjudication of this issue by a German court,” said the bench.

Representing the French national, senior advocate T r Andhyarujina appealed for mercy, saying she is an old woman, who is now being sought to be released by her country on any stipulations that the apex court may deem fit. “On September 21, the Delhi High Court had quashed proceedings to arrest her for extradition, but she was re-arrested after the decision of the government to ratify an 118-year-old treaty to enable her extradition to Chile.

Allow her to come out of jail on whatever conditions you consider right,” said Andhyarujina, assisted by advocate Ramni Taneja. But Patwalia said Verhoeven was a fugitive and did not deserve any mercy due to the murder charge against her. Andhyarujina reminded the ASG that two Italian marines were also accused of murdering two Indian fishermen but the government allowed their release and did not raise any objection when one of them travelled to Italy and extended his stay.

On a query by the bench as to why it should not order her release when Italian marines have been released on similar conditions,

Patwalia sought a week’s time to seek instructions. The court will now hear the case on November 16.

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