DMK president M Karunanidhi on Sunday came down heavily on the Centre’s sworn submission on the Katchatheevu case in the Supreme Court.
The Centre claimed before the court that Katchatheevu did not belong to any country and that the problem of ownership persisted even during the British rule. Hence, when the demarcation of territorial waters was being drawn between India and Sri Lanka, the island fell under the latter’s control.
Under the agreements of 1974 and 1976, India accepted the position. So it was wrong to create an illusion that the island belonged to India, and that it ceded the territory to Sri Lanka.
Stating that the Centre’s stand had shocked the people of Tamil Nadu, the DMK chief pointed to Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s petition submitted on behalf of the Tamil Nadu government in the Supreme Court, claiming that Katchatheevu belonged to India, which had ceded the island to Sri Lanka without the approval of Parliament, thus rendering it null and void.
Karunanidhi said he too had filed a petition in the Supreme Court on May 5, seeking a declaration that the agreement between India and Sri Lanka dated June 26 and 28, 1974 and the agreement dated March 23, 1976, and the surrendering of Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka, were unconstitutional and void.
The agreement was ex-facie unconstitutional for want of constitutional amendment under Article 368 of the Constitution, the petition said.
Karunanidhi sought to remind the Centre that Katchatheevu had a long traditional history.
There was a shrine for St Anthony and it was fishermen from Tamil Nadu who thronged the shrine during the week-long festival, he said. Sri Lankan fishermen also took part in the festivities. Fishermen of both countries relaxed and dried their nets there.
Quoting from several documents, he said Katchatheevu belonged to the Raja of Ramanathapuram, who had leased it to the Dutch in 1660. In view of the notice issued by the court to the Tamil Nadu government on the Centre’s submission, the State must present all historical and other evidence before the court in the case, he added.
In the statement, Karunanidhi recalled how the DMK had opposed the ceding of Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka both in the Tamil Nadu Assembly and Parliament in 1974.
Pointing to a visiting Sri Lankan Minister’s remark that the issue was a “closed chapter” he said the Centre’s sworn submission in the court appeared like a background song.