Twelve of these fishermen had ventured into the sea on July 4 from the Rameswaram jetty and the four others had set out on July 7 from Mandapam. The two groups were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy on charges of illegally fishing into its territory water, the day after went to the sea. They were lodged at the Jaffna prison.
For the first time, Sri Lankan fisheries department had filed the charge sheet against these 16 fishermen under the new Fisheries Act that has provisions to punish foreign fishermen who are apprehended in their territory water with longer jail term and a hefty penalty based on the fish catch seized, the size of the boat, and the fishing net used by the fishermen.
While hearing the case, Judge Anthony Pillai Judeson awarded two years’ jail term to each fisherman, on July 13.
However, the same day, he suspended the jail term for a period of five years and ordered the release of the fishermen, stating that these fishermen would have to undergo a jail term if they committed the same mistake within a five-year period. (Colombo Gazette)