The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear together the petitions filed by the DMK President M. Karunanidhi and the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa seeking a direction to the Centre to retrieve Kachatheevu Island from Sri Lanka.
A Bench of Justices H.L. Dattu and S.S. Bobde, posted for final hearing the two petitions, after hearing senior counsel R. Venkataramani for Mr. Karunanidhi and State Additional Advocate General Subramonium Prasad for Ms. Jayalalithaa.
The Centre had already rejected the demand saying that Kachatheevu Island could not be retrieved from Sri Lanka as demanded by the petitioners. It had said the question of retrieval did not arise as no territory belonging to India was ceded nor sovereignty relinquished to Sri Lanka.
The Centre said “Kachatheevu Island was a matter of dispute between British India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and there was no agreed boundary. The dispute relating to the status of this island was settled in 1974 by an agreement and both the countries examined the entire question from all angles and took into account historical evidence and legal aspects. This position was reiterated in the 1976 agreement. No territory belonging to India was ceded nor sovereignty relinquished since the area in question was in dispute and had never been demarcated.” Therefore the contention of the petitioners that Kachatheevu was ceded to Sri Lanka was not correct and contrary to official records.
Ms. Jayalalithaa in her petition highlighted the sufferings of fishermen from Tamil Nadu who inadvertently strayed into the island. She said that because of the hostile attitude of the Sri Lankan navy, fishermen feared to go fishing as they were either killed or taken into custody if they entered Katchatheevu. Ms. Jayalalithaa said Katchatheevu was historically part of the Ramnad Raja’s zamindari and later it became part of the Madras Presidency. The island had always been of strategic importance and special significance for fishing operations in the area. In or around 1921, Sri Lanka started claiming territorial rights over the island without any justification and notwithstanding such claims it continued to be part of India.(The Hindu)