Fisherman Care moves High Court for direction to Central government

An organisation to protect the interests of fishermen has moved the Madras High Court for a direction to the Centre to take diplomatic steps to secure the release of Tamil Nadu fishermen languishing in Sri Lankan jails. It also sought a further direction to the authorities to take up the issue with the island government of frequent attacks on Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy and find a permanent solution to the problem.

Fisherman Care, represented by its president, L.T.A. Peter Rayan, submitted that several fishermen had been killed and wounded by the Sri Lankan Navy.

As per a news report based on information obtained through an RTI query by activists, “more than 378 fishermen had been killed allegedly by the island navy between 1983 and 2005.”

Till date, no clear solution had been formulated by the Centre and the human rights violation against the Tamil Nadu fishermen continued. In June this year, 57 fishermen were abducted by the Sri Lankan Navy. The petitioner submitted that the State’s fishermen under Art.6 of the 1974 agreement between India and Sri Lanka on the maritime boundary and related matters Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen enjoyed their traditional right of fishing in each other’s waters. But they were being arrested and imprisoned by the island navy.

According to an official statement on August 29, 82 fishermen were in Sri Lankan prisons, besides the 35 arrested recently.

By another petition, the organisation sought a direction to the Centre to clarify a statement said to have been made by the External Affairs Minister in the Rajya Sabha on August 22 this year with regard to Tamil Nadu fishermen crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line. The petitioner said the Minister had said that fishermen from Tamil Nadu had been crossing the boundary line with impunity.

He had stressed the need for greater awareness among the fishermen to avoid crossing into the Sri Lankan waters for their own safety.

The Minister’s statement was in contravention of Art.6 of the 1974 agreement which had become final and binding after the Presidential assent in July 1974, the petitioner said. When the matter came up before the First Bench, comprising Acting Chief Justice R.K. Agrawal and Justice M. Sathyanarayanan, the Government Pleader, S.T.S. Moorthy and the Special Panel Counsel, C. Kanagaraj, took notice for the Tamil Nadu and Central governments. The matter has been posted for October 9.