Dr. Manmohan Singh, Mario Monti
The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh meeting the Prime Minister of Italy, Mr. Mario Monti, on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit, in Seoul on March 26, 2012.PIB

The European Union (EU) has finally intervened in the India-Italy diplomatic row, criticising New Delhi for not allowing Italian ambassador Daniele Mancini from leaving the country in connection with the refusal of his government to send back its two marines accused of murdering Indian fishermen.

The Supreme Court of India has ordered the Italian ambassador not to leave India till the next hearing on 2 April, after Italy went back on its commitment to send back the two marines for further trial.

A spokesperson of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said that all countries should respect the 1961 Vienna Convention as it the cornerstone of international legal order.

"(Ashton) continues to hope that a mutually acceptable solution can be found through dialogue and in respect of international rules and encourages the parties to explore all avenues to that effect," the spokesperson said.

The statement from EU came after Italy accused India of violating international laws by preventing its envoy from leaving the country, reasoning that ambassadors enjoy diplomatic immunity.

According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961, diplomats are given immunity and thus Mancini cannot be pulled up by the court, detained or restrained from leaving the country.

Article 31 of the convention says that a diplomat shall enjoy immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving state. He shall also enjoy immunity from its civil and administrative jurisdiction, except in matters that are not on behalf of the sending state.

Going by the 1961 Vienna Convention, India's Supreme Court can pull up Mancini only if Italy allows or gives permission to do so.

The Supreme Court, however, said that there is no immunity for any person who comes to court and gives an undertaking. A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said on Monday that the matter would be taken up on 2 April when senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi will appear for the Italian government and its envoy.

The Union Home Ministry had earlier alerted all the exit points, including airports to prevent Mancini from leaving the country.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, an Italian by birth, has also warned Italy saying that no country should take India for granted.

Italian marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone were arrested for the alleged murder of two fishermen off the Kerala coast on 15 February last year. They were allowed to stay in Italy for a period of four weeks by the Supreme Court of India only on assurance by the Italian envoy that they would be sent back to India under the care, supervision and control of the Italian Republic after the completion of the stipulated time.

In an unexpected turnaround, Italy conveyed a message to India that it will not send back its marines to India for further trial, causing furore in India.