DMK president seeks a direction to Union government to retrieve Katchatheevu

The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted six weeks time to the Centre to file its response to a writ petition filed by DMK president M. Karunanidhi for a direction to the Centre to retrieve Katchatheevu.

A Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and S.A. Bobde granted time on a request made by Additional Solicitor General Paras Kuhad and directed the matter to be listed after six weeks.

The Centre had already filed its response to a similar writ petition filed by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa stating that the question of retrieval of Katchatheevu from Sri Lanka did not arise as no territory belonging to India was ceded to Sri Lanka.

The Centre had said that Katchatheevu was a matter of dispute between British India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and there was no agreed boundary.

“The dispute relating to the status of this island was settled in 1974 by an agreement and both the countries examined the entire question from all angles and took into account historical evidence and legal aspects. This position was reiterated in the 1976 agreement. No territory belonging to India was ceded nor sovereignty relinquished since the area in question was in dispute and had never been demarcated.” The filing of this affidavit by the Centre created uproar in Parliament with opposition parties objecting to the government’s stand and seeking withdrawal of this affidavit.

In his writ petition Mr. Karunanidhi also sought a declaration that the agreement between India and Sri Lanka dated June 26 and 28, 1974, and the agreement dated March 23, 1976 and the related communications pertaining to such agreements surrendering Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka as unconstitutional and void.

He wanted a direction to protect the historic fishing rights and other traditional rights of fishermen of Tamil Nadu in the waters of Palk Strait and Palk Bay and waters around Katchatheevu.

He said, “Katchatheevu is an uninhabited island located about ten miles north-east off Rameswaram on the Indian side and nine miles south off Delft Island on the Sri Lankan side.