Madurai: The Madras High Court bench here on Friday reserved orders on a plea seeking direction to provide security for fishermen in Palk Straits besides taking up issue of providing compensation by filing cases in the International Court of Justice.
A division bench of Justices Vinod Kumar Sharma and A Selvam also dismissed a petition seeking to provide legal assistance for five fishermen who were taken into custody by Sri Lankan Navy and secure their release.
The judges wondered how the court could give direction for legal assistance in another country. They suggested that the lawyer of the petitioner could approach some human rights advocates in Sri Lanka for help, or approach some NGO.
When Tamil Nadu government pleader Pugazhendhi pointed out that the state government had given Rs two lakh to the Indian High Commission to engage a lawyer and get their release, the judges recorded the submission and told the counsel for the petitioner that government had already made arrangements for providing legal assistance.
The government was also giving Rs 250 per day for the families of the fishermen to meet their daily expenses.
Disposing of another writ plea seeking a direction to take action against fishermen using banned fishing nets and high-power mechanised boats, the judges said they could not deal with such allegations unless they were given specific particulars for action by Fisheries department.
The petition had been filed in the interest of country boat fishermen.
Responding to the court`s direction to file a fresh affidavit on the steps to be taken to protect Indian fishermen, Coast Guard DIG SK Verghese said additional measures could be taken to safeguard them.
The official said all types of boats including country
boats could be registered and fitted with Global Positioning System and a VHF communication equipment with multiple channel selection facility with a view to knowing the boat position could be given.
The lighthouses operated by the Directorate General of Lighthouses may be suitably calibrated so that lights dipped exactly on International Maritime Boundary line.Marker buoys could be floated at regular intervals along the IMBL.
The state government could also consider use of GPS based cost effective fishing location tracking and weather forecasting alert system which activated its hooter and siren thus alerting the fishermen crossing the IMBL.
The State also could set up VHF radio fisheries control centre to interact with fishermen.They could also ask the mobile companies to extend network reach in Palk bay upto the IMBL, he said.
The CoastGuard submitted that it was not practically possible for the ICG to prevent fishermen from crossing the IMBL in the Palk Straits as they were not empowered to do so under any Act.
The IMBL stretched 160 nautical miles and it was not practical for any agency to seal the entire area.The ICG had however distributed distress alert transmitters to fishermen. So far the fishermen had not raised any distress signal.
Fishermen also need to be sensitised by the state fisheries department about the consequences of poaching in Lankan waters, the official submitted.