Italian envoy can’t claim immunity: CJI

A Bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justices Anil R. Dave and Ms. Ranjana Desai has clarifies to Italian envoy Daniele Mancini that a person who came to the court as a petitioner could not claim any immunity. The Apex court has extended its direction until further orders restraining the envoy from leaving the country.

The Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini claimed complete immunity under the Vienna Convention.

The Ambassador had signed an undertaking assuring the return of the two marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen. On his assurance the court had allowed the two accused to go to their country to exercise their votes in elections there. However, Italy refused to return the marines insisting that by planning to try the naval mariners India violates its international pledges, specifically the UN Law of the Sea Convention, since the incident occurred in the open sea (as claimed by Italy).

What is Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations?

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 is an international pact that defines a framework for diplomatic relations b/w independent nations. It specifies the privileges of a diplomatic mission that enable diplomats to perform their function without fear of coercion or harassment by the host country. This forms the legal basis for diplomatic immunity. It has been ratified by 187 nations.

Summary of the Treaty:

The treaty consists of 53 articles. Key articles of the treaty are:

Article 9: The host nation may at any time and for any reason declare a particular member of the diplomatic staff to be persona non grata. The sending state must recall this person within a reasonable period of time, or otherwise this person may lose their diplomatic immunity.

Article 22: The premises of a diplomatic mission, such as an embassy, are inviolate and must not be entered by the host country except by permission of the head of the mission. Furthermore, the host country must protect the mission from intrusion or damage. The host country must never search the premises, nor seize its documents or property. Article 30 extends this provision to the private residence of the diplomats.

Article 27: The host country must permit and protect free communication between the diplomats of the mission and their home country. A diplomatic bag must never be opened even on suspicion of abuse. A diplomatic courier must never be arrested or detained.

Article 29: Diplomats must not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. They are immune from civil or criminal prosecution, though the sending country may waive this right under Article 32. Under Article 34, they are exempt from most taxes, and under Article 36 they are exempt from most customs duties.

Article 31.1c: Actions not covered by diplomatic immunity: professional activity outside diplomat’s official functions.

Article 37: The family members of a diplomat that are living in the host country enjoy most of the same protections as the diplomats themselves.

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