|The island was ceded only through executive orders|
It was “unilateral and arbitrary cession” of sovereign territory
Indian fishermen losing livelihood, facing threat from Sri Lanka Navy
New Delhi: All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary Jayalalithaa on Thursday moved the Supreme Court seeking to declare the 1974 and 1976 agreements between New Delhi and Colombo on ceding of Kachatheevu to Sri Lanka unconstitutional.
In a writ petition, she highlighted the sufferings of fishermen from Tamil Nadu who inadvertently strayed near this island, off the Rameswaram coast.
The Sri Lankan Navy either killed them or took them into custody.
Ms. Jayalalithaa said Kachatheevu was historically part of the Ramnad Raja’s Zamindari and it later became part of the Madras Presidency. The island had always been of strategic importance and special significance for fishing operations. In or around 1921, Sri Lanka had started claiming territorial rights over the island without any justification.
Despite historical evidence that it was part of India, the island was ceded to Sri Lanka by a maritime agreement in 1974, she said.
In 1976, a second agreement was signed to demarcate the boundaries between the two countries in the Gulf of Mannar and the Bay of Bengal. There was also an exchange of letters, prohibiting fishermen of either country from fishing in the exclusive economic zone without express permission of the other.
As Kachatheevu was ceded through executive orders and not by a constitutional amendment, the transfer was non est in law and void ab initio.
Subsequent to the signing of the agreements, Indian fishermen, Tamil Nadu fishermen in particular, had been put to untold hardship, and misery. Their fundamental rights had been gravely infringed upon, Ms. Jayalalithaa said. She explained the steps she took during her tenure as Chief Minister to redeem the island. These efforts did not succeed and hence the petition.
Ms. Jayalalithaa said the “unilateral and arbitrary cession” of India’s sovereign territory, that too without any legal or factual basis, deprived Indian fishermen of their livelihood. Not only had hundreds of fishermen been killed by the Sri Lankan Navy but alsomany more were arrested for no apparent reason.
She sought a direction to the Centre that it take appropriate steps to retrieve the island.
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