The Madras High Court Bench here on Tuesday wanted to know if the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had informed Chief Minister Jayalalithaa that the Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) had entered into a commercial deal with the Sri Lankan government last year only for supply of two Offshore Patrol Vehicles (OPVs) used for surveillance and rescue operations and not warships fitted with weapons and sensors.
Justices M. Jaichandren and R. Mahadevan directed Additional Advocate General K. Chellapandian to ascertain by August 11, the details of communication between the PMO and the Chief Minister on the issue.
The direction was passed after Assistant Solicitor General G.R. Swaminathan argued in favour of the deal and contended that the OPVs were expected to enhance maritime security in the Indian Ocean region.
However, W. Peter Ramesh Kumar, counsel for a Public Interest Litigation petitioner B. Stalin who wanted the Centre to scrap the deal, claimed that Chief Minister was under the impression that the deal, signed in May 2013, was with respect to sale of warships and she had written as many as three letters against the sale when Manmohan Singh was holding the office of the Prime Minister last year.
Allaying petitioner’s apprehension on the Sri Lankan Navy using the two vessels to attack Indian fishermen, Mr. Swaminathan said that as per the contract, no weapon or ammunition was required to be provided in the OPVs. Their role was only to carry out surveillance in Sri Lanka’s Exclusive Economic Zone besides involving in search and rescue operations off Sri Lankan coast.
He also relied upon a counter affidavit filed by Mayank Joshi, Deputy Secretary (Sri Lanka), Union Ministry of External Affairs, in reply to the PIL petition. The counter filed in January this year, during the UPA regime, stated that the Coast Guard ships on patrol duty had not come across any incident of Indian fishermen having been fired upon in Indian waters. (The Hindu)