Sri Lanka has stopped releasing seized boats – Indian govt. tells Madras HC

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The central government of India on Monday told the Madras High Court that since 2015 Sri Lanka had stopped releasing boats of Indian fishermen apprehended on charges of trespassing into foreign waters for illegal fishing, particularly through the banned method of bottom trawling.

Justices Vineet Kothari and R. Suresh Kumar were told that the decision to not release the boats was taken as a measure of deterrence and that the Sri Lankan government had also amended its laws in July 2017 and January 2018 to prevent illegal fishing and bottom trawling by foreign vessels too.

“The Sri Lankan government has been prosecuting the fishermen arrested for fishing in Sri Lankan waters before the Magistrate courts concerned and also the Sri Lankan courts have been ordering the presence of the owners of the boats for the release of the fishing vessels,” the counter affidavit read.

It was filed in response to a public interest litigation petition filed by Fishermen Care, a non-governmental organisation represented by its president L.T.A. Peter Rayan, accusing the Centre of not having provided sufficient funds for the rehabilitation of Indian fishermen arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy.

Assuring the court that the Centre had been taking continuous efforts to get the boats as well as the arrested Indian fishermen released, the counter stated that the issue had to be sorted out only through diplomatic channels, since the jurisdiction of the Indian courts would not extend to a foreign country.

In so far as allocation of funds for rehabilitation of fishermen was concerned, the Centre said that that it had released INR184.93 crore in the last five years to the State government for the implementation of the Blue Revolution: Integrated Development and Management of Fisheries scheme.

Further, another INR 300 crore was allocated for providing assistance for deep sea fishing and constructing a fish landing centre at Kunthukal in Ramanathapuram district. A specific advice had also been issued to the State government to give priority to fishermen, who had lost their boats while granting assistance, it said.