Written by Kumudu Jayawardana
24 Jan, 2014 | 12:28 pm
Sri Lanka’s sovereignty over the island of Katchatheevu is a settled matter and fishermen from India do not enjoy any right to engage in fishing activities in the region, the Centre informed the Madras high court on Thursday.
In a 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 maritime boundary between India and Sri Lanka and, consequently, that of sovereignty over Katchatheevu island is a settled issue.”
As for the contention in the PIL, filed by Fisherman Care president L A Peter Rayan, 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 Katchatheevu 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.” The PIL’s claim that the agreements gave Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen traditional rights of fishing in each other’s waters is baseless and untenable, it said.
Noting that it was not a case of ceding of an Indian territory to another country, the counter-affidavit 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.
It said the boundary fell one mile off the west coast of the uninhabited island of Katchatheevu, and added, “It 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 in Parliament.”
However, the agreement of 1976 determined maritime boundary between India and Sri Lanka in the Gulf of Mannar and the Bay of Bengal. These agreements were placed before Parliament and they 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 petition came up for hearing on Thursday, adjourned the matter to January 27 for further hearing.
SOURCE: Times Of India
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