Chennai: The islet of Katchatheevu in the Palk Strait 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, the Centre has told the Madras High Court.
In a reply affidavit filed before the court, the Centre said "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 understood to cover fishing rights around the island to Indian fishermen."
The affidavit was in response to a PIL by Fisherman Care which disputed the sovereignty of the island between Sri Lanka and India and said the agreements had clear provisions for allowing Indian fishermen to do fishing 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 in Katchatheevu, an islet ceded by India to Sri Lanka.
The Centre, however, said government of India had continuously emphasized to the government of 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.
A bench, comprising acting Chief Justice Satish K Agnihotri and Justice M M Sundresh, adjourned the matter by two weeks for further hearing.