Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to direct the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka to initiate an appeal against the death sentence awarded to the five Indian fishermen by the Colombo High Court.
Expressing shock at the sentence, Mr. Panneerselvam said the State had consistently maintained that these fishermen were innocent and the narcotics case was foisted on them. They had no record of involvement in drug-related activities. The manner in which the trial was conducted and the orders were delayed gave rise to doubts whether the fishermen got a fair trial.
The case was heard in Jaffna when the Sri Lankan police filed the charge sheet in the Colombo court and transferred the case there abruptly. Thereafter, the trial was held before the Fourth Bench of the High Court. In the earlier cases of alleged drug trafficking, the only penalty awarded to the guilty was a fine, he said in a letter to Mr. Modi.
It was the paramount duty of the Indian government to protect the life of five of its innocent citizens who were deprived of their rights in an unfair manner, he said.
The State government sanctioned special assistance to pay for the legal fees of the fishermen. It would continue to meet the legal cost of the case, he said, requesting the Prime Minister to instruct the Indian High Commission to hire the best lawyers for their defence. Any failure to take immediate action would inflame the already bruised emotions of the people of the State, he said.