CJM orders release of five Sri Lankan fishermen

The Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) court here has ordered the immediate release of five Sri Lankan fishermen, who were arrested on March 17 for fishing in Indian waters after the State government withdrew the cases against them, sending a goodwill message to Sri Lankan authorities.

Holding that the prosecution was not interested in further interrogation and requested that the court pass orders to close the case as withdrawn, Chief Judicial Magistrate N. Dharman, on Tuesday, discharged the accused from the case and ordered that they be released forthwith along with their vessel, ‘Sudu Duwa.’

The five Sri Lankan fishermen - N. Immanuel Ilantha Veerasekar (34), S. Sunil Pathri (57), T. Jude Samanth (32), A. Janak (30) and S. Varna Kula Surya Suba Kumar Dusare (34) were detained by the Indian Coast Guard on March 17 - when they were found fishing in Indian waters.

On being handed over, the Tuticorin Marine Police arrested and registered cases against them under Sections 3(a), 6(a) of the Passport (Entry into India) Rules, 1950, read with Section 3/10 of Marine Zone of India Act, 1981 and Section 14 of the Foreigners Act 1946.

The fishermen were arrested on March 17, when Sri Lankan authorities released 34 of 53 Rameswaram fishermen, detained by the Sri Lankan Navy on March 13/14 for crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).

Gesture of goodwill

Reciprocating the gesture of goodwill, the Tuticorin Collector Ashish Kumar held a joint interrogation committee meeting on March 21 and observed that the Sri Lankan fishermen appeared to be genuine and could be released on humanitarian grounds.

The committee recommended their release along with the boat stating that they were in possession of 200 kg of fish and no contraband or narcotic substance was found in the boat.

In the absence of any concrete evidence to prove their involvement in any nefarious activity and given the fact that they entered Indian waters for fishing , the committee recommended that the five fishermen, along with the boat, may be ordered to be released.

Based on the recommendation, the government issued a Government Order on March 25 and sent the same to the Tuticorin Collector. The Marine police, in this backdrop, requested the CJM court to close the case and order the release of the fishermen, now lodged in the district jail in Srivilliputhur.

“In the interest of justice, the requisition of police is accepted and further proceedings are closed,” the Chief Judicial Magistrate said and ordered the immediate release of the fishermen.

On March 18, when the five fishermen were produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate at his residence here, Mr. Dharman remanded them in judicial custody till March 1.

They are likely to be repatriated by the Indian Coast Guard on Wednesday by handing over them to the Sri Lankan Navy at the International Maritime Boundary Line.

The five Sri Lankan fishermen were detained on March 17 when they were found fishing in Indian waters

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