India’s Supreme Court has issued a notice to Daniele Mancini, the Italian ambassador, restraining him from leaving the country without it’s permission. Chief Justice Altamas Kabir issued the order on Thursday.
India has also stopped its new ambassador to Italy, Basant Gupta, from taking charge.
The court had allowed the two Italian marines to go vote in last month’s national elections. The travel was sanctioned based on assurance by the Italian ambassador that they would return on 22 March.
Italian government claims that the marines should be tried in Italy, for the shooting of two Indian fishermen off the Indian coast. They claim the incident happened in international waters outside India’s jurisdiction and, on Monday, said they’ll not return the marines, igniting a diplomatic row.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that Italy’s refusal was “unacceptable” and warned that “there will be consequences”. The incident has caused major embarrassment for the government. The opposition parties are also capitalizing on the fact that the head of the ruling family, Sonia Gandhi, is Italian by birth.
The Italian ambassador has been asked to respond to the notice by 18 March. India’s Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati said that Rome’s failure to return the two marines “is a breach of undertaking given to the highest court of the land and the government is extremely concerned about it”.
There is considerable doubt as to whether the Indian government can really restrain the ambassador from leaving the country without breaching the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations as the ambassador enjoys inviolable immunity against detention, arrest or attack on dignity.
The government is also thinking of suspending the ambassador once the Supreme Court is through with the issue. “Our hands are tied at the moment because the Supreme Court is hearing the matter. We don’t know what direction the case will take. But once the court has decided how to deal with the ambassador, we will declare him persona non-grata,” said sources to The Hindu.