By Annie Banerji
(Reuters) - Italy, challenging India's right to try Italian marines accused of killing two fishermen, took its case to the Supreme Court in New Delhi on Wednesday in a dispute over jurisdiction on the high seas.
The two Italian sailors, members of a military security team protecting the cargo ship Enrica Lexie from pirate attacks, fired on the fishermen's boat off the Indian coast in February. Italian officials say the men mistook the fishermen for pirates.
Italy says the shooting took place in international waters outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts. India disputes this, saying the incident occurred in a "contiguous zone" where Indian law applies.
The case has soured relations between Italy and India, with Rome insisting that Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone are military personnel and should be tried at home.
"This could set a new precedent for such a law because India has never faced a situation like this before," said advocate Diljeet Titus, appearing for Italy in the Supreme Court.
Indian authorities accuse the sailors of killing unarmed fishermen off the coast of Kerala in a case that has caused outrage in the south Asian nation of 1.2 billion people.
In April, Italy paid $190,000 compensation to each of the victims' families, who then dropped their cases against the marines, but the state's case continues.
Italy petitioned India's Supreme Court after the Kerala High Court held that the marines were liable to be tried under Indian law.
Attacks on ships have increased in the eastern side of the Arabian Sea, as better security around the Horn of Africa has pushed Somali pirates to range as far as the Maldives. The waters close to India are generally considered safer.
(Additional reporting by Suchitra Mohanty; Editing by Alistair Lyon)