The Supreme Court has extended the time given to Italian Marine Massimiliano Latorre till mid-April to return to India and face trial. Latorre is one of the two marines who killed Indian fishermen, as they thought they were pirates, off the Kerala coast in 2012.
However, the Supreme Court's ruling doesn't help the BJP government's cause as popular public opinion on the issue is against them.
Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy has already relayed the fishermen's kins' anguish to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and has asked him to intervene in the matter.
However, we do not know much about the government's stand on the issue. An IBN Live report seems to suggest that the Indian government might have agreed to Italy's insistence of international arbitration of the case.
The Italians have always maintained that the marines were on international waters when they shot the fishermen. According to Italy, India doesn't have the jurisdiction to try the marines.
Ever since an Italian senator categorically stated that Latorre wouldn't come back to India to face trial, Twitter has been abuzz with BJP leaders' and PM Modi's old tweets from a time when the UPA was grappling with a diplomatic crisis on the same issue.
Italian marines mercilessly killed our fishermen. If Madam is so 'patriotic' can she tell us in which jail are the marines lodged in?- Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 31, 2014
Italian marine not coming back; what happened to the muscle flexing foreign policy rhetoric friends?😄- Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) January 13, 2016
Govt helped Lalit Modi on humanitarian grounds, but wasn't he also liaising to rescue Italian Marines? #MurdererMarinesWalkFree (1/40)- Gaurav Pandhi (@GauravPandhi) January 13, 2016
Back home, the issue of their return had become an election hot potato, laced with nationalistic sentiments. The Italian government was reluctant to return them to India. Relations between India and Italy were further worsened after the Italian ambassador was barred from leaving India.
However, with much back and forth and assurances from the Indian side that the marines' human rights will not be violated, the duo returned to face trial here.
In April, 2014, the Supreme Court allowed Latorre to return to Italy for the third time. This time it was because of a brain stroke the marine had suffered. Since then, Latorre has been in Italy and has sought two extensions, which expired today.
Last year, Italy moved the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) to take over the case. Italy said that the protracted trial in India was taking a toll on the health of their nationals. India, as of now, hasn't agreed to any such demand.
The supreme Court's decision to extend time might have pushed the crisis to a later date. However, the BJP is losing a major perception battle with its silence on a matter which it had enthusiastically endorsed before coming to power.