CHENNAI: The Madras High Court today adjourned to August 5 a PIL seeking to direct the Centre and Tamil Nadu governments to establish the traditional rights of fishermen of India for navigatgion and fishing in Katchatheevu.
The first bench, comprising acting Chief Justice Satish K Agnihotri and Justice M M Sundresh, adjourned the case accepting a request from the Centre.
The court also gave liberty to the petitioner, Peter Rayan, President Fisherman Care, Chennai, to file a rejoinder, if any, to the counter filed by the Centre.
In its counter, the Centre submitted Katchatheevu is a sovereign property of Sri Lanka and the 1974 and 1976 agreements between India and Sri Lanka do not confer any fishing rights on fishermen from India.
"Under the agreements of 1974 and 1976, Indian fishermen and pilgrims will enjoy access to Katchatheevu and will not be required by Sri Lanka to obtain travel documents or visas for these purposes. The right of access is not to be understood to cover fishing rights around the island to Indian fishermen", the Centre had said.
The Fisherman Care contended that the agreements had clear provisions for allowing Indian fishermen to fish around the island.
Disputing the claim, the Centre said the boundary between the two countries had already been clearly delineated and it would not allow Indian fishermen to cross over and exploit the marine resources in the waters of another country.
It said the fishermen could rest, dry their nets and attend the annual St Antony’s festival. However, India had continuously emphasized to Sri Lanka that there was no justification for use of force against Indian fishermen even though almost all instances of alleged harassment of fishermen occur in Sri Lankan waters.
Customary rights which were enjoyed from time immemorial cannot be taken away by mere executive instructions, that too without legislative sanction, the petitioner said.