In a strange flip-flop, the union government told the Supreme Court on Friday that the Kerala police had no authority to detain the Italian ship Enrica Lexie after two fishermen from the were killed by a pair of marines on the ship – but hours later sought to distance itself from this stand, saying that the additional solicitor-general representing it had voiced his own opinion, and the centre had not been consulted.
Additional Solicitor-General Harin Raval submitted before a bench of Justices R M Lodha and H L Gokhale that the Enrica Lexie was not in Indian waters when the shooting incident occurred; thus echoing the arguments of the Italian government. As a result, the Kerala police had no jurisdiction to detain the ship or probe the incident, as it occurred on the high seas.
''The bench did not seem too pleased with Raval's argument. ''Are you saying that Kerala police have no jurisdiction to probe?'' it asked. ''It is very unfortunate and it can't be acceptable. How can you take such a stand, when two Indian citizens have been killed?''
Raval insisted this was the centre's stand. The matter was posted for further hearing on 30 April.
Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy was quick to disagree with Raval's argument. "We took every action after consulting the central government. The incident took place inside our territory. We have every right to take action,'' he said.
Later in the day, however, the ministry of shipping issued a press release claiming that Raval had spoken without the central government's consent when he said the Kerala police had no jurisdiction to detain the Italian ship. ''The central government has not filed any affidavit in the matter, ''nor were any such instructions given to the government counsel. There is no difference of opinion between the centre and the state government'' on the issue,'' it stated.