The Madras High Court Bench adjourned to February 23 the hearing on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition seeking protection for Tamil fishermen from the Sri Lankan Navy as well as a contempt of court application filed against senior Central government officials alleging disobedience of an interim order passed by the court on October 14 to provide adequate protection.
A Division Bench of Justices Chitra Venkataraman and R. Karuppiah deferred the hearing to enable the State government to file its counter affidavit in the main PIL petition.
Earlier, Additional Solicitor General M. Ravindran urged the court to dispose of the contempt petition forthwith. However, petitioner’s counsel W. Peter Ramesh Kumar objected to it and sought time.
“They (the Centre) claim that all incidents of attacks on Indian fishermen have occurred only in Sri Lankan waters. On the contrary, the Tamil Nadu police have registered cases on the basis of complaints claiming that the attacks had taken place in Indian waters. Therefore, the State government’s counter affidavit is necessary for the disposal of the case,” counsel said.
He also accused the Centre of taking swift measures to rescue north Indian fishermen whenever they got into trouble in Arabian Sea and not bothering when Tamil fishermen face similar travails.
“A stepmotherly treatment is shown to the men who fish in the Indian Ocean. There have been eight occurrences of assault despite interim orders passed by the court to provide protection.”
B. Stalin, an advocate from Melur, near here, filed the PIL petition last year seeking a direction to the Centre to provide sufficient number of Coast Guard vessels on the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) between India and Sri Lanka for ensuring that Indian fishermen were not subjected to alleged atrocities by the Sri Lankan Navy.
Thereafter, he filed a contempt application against the Union Cabinet Secretary, National Security Advisor, Defence Secretary, External Affairs Secretary and Deputy Director General of Indian Coast Guard accusing them of disobeying interim orders passed by the court to provide additional security on the International Maritime Boundary Line.
However, Deepak Mittal, Director, BSM (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Maldives) Division, Ministry of External Affairs, filed a counter affidavit listing out additional enforcements provided at the IMBL pursuant to the interim orders.
He denied any disobedience and also dismissed claims of recent attacks on Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy as mere allegations. (The Hindu)