Jan 23, Chennai: The central Indian government has informed the Madras High Court today that the Indian fishermen have no rights to Sri Lanka's Katchatheevu islet in the Palk Straits.
The center told the court the sovereignty of Sri Lanka over the uninhabited islet is a settled matter under the 1974 Indian Supreme Court directive, according to an Express News Service report.
"The issue of maritime boundary between India and Sri Lanka and consequently that of the sovereignty over the Katchatheevu Island is a settled issue," the counter said when a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was heard by a two-judge bench.
The PIL filed by Fishermen Care President L A Peter Rayan is seeking to retake the islet ceded to Sri Lanka by India in 1974.
A counter produced in court by the Secretaries of External Affairs and Defense Ministries of the Indian government said the Indian fishermen can have access to the island only to dry their nets or for pilgrimage.
The claim in the PIL that the agreement guaranteed Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen their traditional rights of fishing in each other's waters was "baseless and untenable", it said.
Under the treaty agreement of 1974, Indian fishermen have lost the rights to fishing around the island as it is within the territorial waters of Sri Lanka and the 1976 agreement has established the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL), which the fishermen in the two countries are not allowed to cross into each other's territory.
These agreements were placed before the 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 transfer of the uninhabited island with only a Catholic shrine has been under dispute since the transfer as Indian fishermen claim they have the rights to fish around the island.
Last year, the Tamil Nadu government under Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa filed a petition in the Indian Supreme Court seeking the declaration of the 1974 agreement between India and Sri Lanka on ceding Kachchativu to the latter as unconstitutional.
The DMK leader M. Karunanidhi also filed a PIL petition at India's Supreme Court seeking a writ of declaration to declare the agreement between India and Sri Lanka on ceding the island to Sri Lanka unconstitutional.
The First bench comprising Chief Justice R K Agrawal and Justice K Ravichandrabaabu adjourned the case to January 27.