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Kerala HC sets aside order of single judge

Kochi: The Kerala High court today set aside a single judge`s direction to release on furnishing a bond the Italian ship `Enrica Lexie` detained off Kochi port since February 15 in connection with gunning down of two Indian fishermen allegedly by marines aboard the vessel.

Observing that the single judge`s orders `deserves` to be set aside, the court directed the ship`s owners Dolphin Tankers, the petitioner, to approach the Chief Judicial Magistrate court at Kollam with an application to release the vessel within a week from the date of the receipt of the copy of this judgment. Thereafter the magistrate can dispose of the application within one week, a division bench, comprising Acting Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice V Chidambaresh, said.

The bench directed the CJM court to give an opportunity to the state and others concerned to be heard. The magistrate can apply his mind to the facts of the case regarding retention of the vessel, the judges held. "It is a matter to be considered by the court which has jurisdiction to consider whether the vessel is required throughout the investigation and subsequently for the purpose of trial or inquiry," the judges said.

The court which has jurisdiction to consider the case is the magistrate before whom investigation officer has to report the status of investigation. The question of deviation from proceeding would not arise when seizure proceedings are initiated, the bench held. On March 26, investigating officials had filed a seizure report before the court. Justice P S Gopinathan had ordered the release of the vessel on the owners furnishing a Rs three crore bond and an undertaking that they would appear before investigating authorties as and when required.

However, the division bench had stayed the release of the vessel till April 2 and then extended it by a day to today on a petition filed by the relatives of the two fishermen. The two fishermen were killed when the marines, Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Gironi, allegedly fired at their boat off Kollam coast. They have been arrested and charged with murder and is in prison under judicial remand.

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