The Supreme Court today sought the Italian government's response to a plea for the release of the tanker Enrica Lexie, two of whose guards opened fire on unarmed fishermen off the Kerala coast, killing two of the fishermen.
A special leave petition for the release of the vessel was earlier filed by its owners, Dolphin Tankers. It questioned a Kerala High Court order preventing the release of the Enrica Lexie.
During a two-hour hearing, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices R M Lodha and H L Gokhale also asked the Kerala government why it did not oppose the compromise reached between the families of the deceased fishermen and the Italian vessel's owners, who have agreed to pay Rs1 crore each to the two victims' families.
The apex court reserved its order on vessel's release, posting the matter for further hearing at 10.30am on Wednesday.
The bench was obviously none too pleased with the out-of-court payoff agreed between Dolphin Tankers and the victims' kin. Referring to the compromise, the apex court bench said, ''This is a challenge to the Indian judicial system, this is impermissible. It is most unfortunate.''
At the same time, the apex court indicated that it is not in favour of detaining the vessel's crew and the two trigger-happy marines unless their presence is required by the investigating authorities.