Chennai: The Madras High Court yesterday hoped the union government would look into problems of Indian fishermen and try to find a reasonable solution to them.
The first bench, comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M Sathyanarayanan, stated this while disposing of two petitions while recording the Centre's submission that every endeavour shall be made to look into their problems and the maximum practicable solution possible, complying with India's international obligations and needs of the fishermen, found.
The matter pertains to the fishing rights in the waters between India and Sri Lanka in terms of the 1974 agreement which according to petitioner Peter Rayan, President of Fishermen Care, Chennai, ‘broke down' .
His first petiton sought a direction to Union of India to take steps to get fishermen from Tamil Nadu languishing in jails of Sri Lanka released and for a direction to take up through diplomatic channels the frequent attacks and arrests by Sri Lankan Navy and find a permanent solution to it.
In another petition, he sought a direction to Union of India to clarify the External Affairs Minister's statement in Parliament on August 22 last year with regard to fishermen from Tamil Nadu crossing International Maritime Boundary Line.
Disposing of the petitions, the first bench said the petitioners' counsel is aware that the issue is pending before the apex court but prayed that some practicable solution may be found while looking into grievances of fishermen by taking up the matter diplomatically so that fishermen do not languish in Sri Lankan jails for long period of time “even if they transgressed the maritime boundary line inadvertently.”
Union of India in its affidavit said Katchatheevu is a sovereign property of Sri Lanka and the 1974 and 1976 agreements between India and Sri Lanka do not confer any fishing rights on fishermen from India.
The petitions disputed the sovereignty of the island between the two nations and said the agreements had clear provisions to allow Indian fishermen fish around the Island.
Disputing the claim, the Centre said the boundary between the two countries had already been clearly delineated and it would not allow Indian fishermen cross over and exploit the marine recourses in the waters of another country.
Union of India further said the fishermen could rest, dry their nets and attend the annual St.Antony's Festival.
However, government of India had continuously emphasized to Sri Lankan government that there was no justification for use of force against Indian fishermen, it said.