Madras HC seeks report from Centre on plea for release of 68 fishermen from Lanka

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The Madras High Court on Wednesday sought a status report from the Centre on the 68 Tamil Nadu fishermen who are under judicial custody in Sri Lanka for allegedly violating the International waters.

A division bench of Justices C.V. Karthikeyan and S. Srimathy sought a report from the central government on December 31 after taking note of the fact that it had intervened and taken up the matter with the Sri Lankan authorities.

Petitioner G. Thirumurugan, Coordinator of the Tamil Nadu Meenavar Paadhugaapu Urimayi Iyyakam based out of Ramanathapuram, in his petition pleaded before the court to direct the central government and the state government to take immediate steps for the release of 68 Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu from the custody of Sri Lanka. He also mentioned in the plea for the release of the fishing boat of these fishermen.

Advocate General R. Shanmugasundaram in his reply said that the Sri Lankan authorities had charged that the Indian fishermen had poached into Lankan waters crossing the International marine border while fishing. He also submitted before the court that the fishermen were remanded in judicial custody by local courts in Sri Lanka.

He also submitted the communication made by the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin with the central government regarding their release.

The Assistant Solicitor General L. Victoria Gowri told the court that the Indian authorities were in talks with their Sri Lankan counterparts and that Diplomatic channels have been opened.

After hearing the Advocate General and the Assistant Solicitor general, the court called upon the authorities concerned to put a time frame to get the fishermen back.

It may be noted that 43 fishermen were taken into custody by Sri Lankan authorities on December 18, as many as 12 were taken into custody on December 19, and the next day, 13 more were arrested taking the total to 68 fishermen from Tamil Nadu.

Eight boats of the fishermen are also under the custody of Sri Lankan authorities. A single fishing boat costs a minimum of 30 to 45 lakh rupees and this is the livelihood of the fishermen and the associations have taken up this matter also before the authorities as well as before the court.

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