Italian marines
Italian sailors Salvatore Girone (right) and Massimiliano Latorre Reuters

The Supreme Court of India on Monday extended its restraining order against Italian ambassador Daniele Mancini from leaving the country in connection with the refusal of the Italy government to send back the two marines accused of killing Indian fishermen.

The apex court had on Thursday issued a notice to the Italian envoy not to leave India without its permission following a plea filed by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy accusing him for contempt of court.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said that the matter will be taken up on 2 April as senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi will appear for Italy government and its envoy. The bench added that its order to the envoy not to leave the country has been extended till further orders and has directed the government to take steps on the same.

The bench also observed that the order of the Supreme Court hasn't been violated yet as the four-week home stay for the two marines ends only on 22 March.

The Union Home Ministry had earlier alerted all the exit points, including airports to prevent Italian ambassador from leaving the country after the Supreme Court issued notice to him not to leave the country. The court had asked Mancini to respond to the notice by Monday and attend a hearing of the case the next day.

The government of India is also said to have told Basant Kumar Gupta, its ambassador-designate to Italy, not to leave for Rome following the controversy. Gupta, who was named the successor to former ambassador Debabrata Saha, was supposed to leave for Rome on Friday.

Hinting that the relation between the countries could be strained further, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said that the government would take further action after analysing its relationship with Italy.

The foreign secretary summoned the Italian ambassador last week and conveyed India's stand on the matter in the strongest of terms saying, "India expects Republic of Italy as a country that is committed to the rule of law to fulfill the sovereign undertaking given by it to the Supreme Court of India".

Meanwhile, foreign minister of Italy, Giulio Terzi told reporters in Israel, "We have juridically solid reasons to proceed in the direction of international arbitration."

Italy insisted that the shooting that took place in February 2012 happened in international waters and was therefore outside the jurisdiction of India. However, India argued that the fishermen were shot dead within the Indian Contiguous Zone.

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, while on anti-piracy duty of guarding an Italian oil tanker. 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 furor in India and stalling the proceedings of Parliament.