Observing that the court has all the sympathies for the Indian fishermen languishing in Sri Lankan jails, the Madras High Court, on Monday, directed the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to get the 68 fishermen from Tamil Nadu released from the island nation.
The first bench of Madras HC, comprising Chief Justice MN Bhandari and Justice D Bharatha Chakravarthy, gave the direction while disposing of a petition filed by All India Fishermen Congress (AIFC) vice-chairman Armstrong Fernando.
The petitioner had sought a direction to the Union Ministry of External Affairs to uphold the rights of Indian fishermen to fish in Katchatheevu waters as per the 1974 agreement with Sri Lanka.
On recording the submissions, the judge observed that the Madras High Court has no territorial jurisdiction to pass any direction on this matter but “we could ask the Union government to pursue diplomatic action to retrieve the Katchatheevu.”
The petitioner further submitted that the Sri Lankan Navy had arrested 68 Tamil fishermen and wanted action for their release.
“As per the traditional rights ensured in Articles 5 and 6 in the agreement, the Indian fishermen shall dry their nets and they can make spiritual trips to St Antony’s Church in Katchatheevu, and both the vessels from India and Sri Lanka can go there,” the petitioner added.
However, the judges said that our fishermen are also violating the IMBL rules by crossing into the Sri Lankan waters.
“We don’t know the reason why Tamil Nadu fishermen are crossing the borders in the sea. We cannot pass orders to Sri Lankan courts,” the HC bench noted.