Indian fishermen can't fish near Katchathivu, Centre tells HC

Written By kom nampultig on Kamis, 23 Januari 2014 | 07.20

CHENNAI: Sri Lanka's sovereignty over the island of Katchativu is a settled matter and fishermen from India do not enjoy any right to indulge in fishing activities in the region, the Centre informed the Madras high court on Thursday.

In counter-affidavit, filed in response to a PIL seeking a direction to retrieve the island ceded to Sri Lanka by two agreements in 1974 and 1976, the Centre categorically said: "As far as the government of India is concerned, the issue of the maritime boundary between India and Sri Lanka and, consequently, that of sovereignty over Katchativu island is a settled issue".

As for the PIL-petitioner Fisherman Care president L A Peter Rayan's contention that the agreements provided for fishing rights for Indian fishermen, the Centre said: "Under the 1974 and 1976 agreements, traditional rights allowed are access for our fishermen and pilgrims to visit Katchativu for drying nets, resting and the annual St Antony Festival. The right of access is not understood to cover fishing rights around the island to Indian fishermen." Noting that it was not a case of ceding of an Indian territory to another country, the counter said the 1974 agreement demarcated the boundary between the two countries from Palk Strait to Adam's Bridge and clarified certain issues handed down unresolved and undetermined from the colonial period.

The counter said the boundary falls one mile off the west coast of the uninhabited island of Katchativu, and added: "Is did not involve either acquiring or ceding of territory belonging to India, since the area in question had never been demarcated. Thus, the agreement. Did not require a constitutional amendment to be enacted through the Parliament."

However, the agreement of 1976 determined maritime boundary between and Sri Lanka in Gulf of Mannar and the Bay of Bengal and related matters. These agreements were placed before the parliament and came into effect following due process of ratification and exchange of instruments of ratification between the two countries, the counter said.

The first bench comprising Chief Justice R K Agrawal and Justice K Ravichandrabaabu, before which the matter had come up for hearing on Thursday, adjourned the matter to January 27 for further hearing.

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