Jayalalithaa wants Supreme Court to take up Katchatheevu

Last Updated: Sat, Sep 15, 2012 07:58 hrs

Chennai: Tamil Nadu will petition the Supreme Court to immediately take up its case against the gifting of Katchatheevu island by India to Sri Lanka, according to Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa.

An official statement Saturday said the chief minister conveyed the decision to her officials late Friday.

"It was decided to petition the Supreme Court to take up the case challenging the gifting of Katchatheevu immediately. The government would file a petition in the Supreme Court."

Jayalalithaa said the livelihood of fishermen in Rameswaram had been affected because of the 1974 decision and that they were being attacked by the Sri Lankan Navy.

The island was gifted to Sri Lanka in 1974 by the Indian government. The DMK then ruled Tamil Nadu.

India and Sri Lanka are separated by a narrow strip of sea known as the Palk Strait. Physically, Tamil Nadu is closest to northern Sri Lanka.

Jayalalithaa told the officials that in 2008 she had filed a case in the apex court stating that the agreement to transfer Katchatheevu was not legally valid.

In 2011, after becoming chief minister, the government was asked to join the case.

Citing a 1960 apex court ruling, Jayalalithaa said in her petition of 2008 that any transfer of land belonging to India to a foreign country should be ratified by the both the houses of parliament.

She said that since this was not done, the agreements between India and Sri Lanka signed in 1974 and 1976 regarding Katchatheevu were not legally valid.

The 285-acre island is situated on the Sri Lankan side of the maritime boundary.

Under the agreement of 1974, Indian fishermen could not fish around the island but could dry their nets on the island and worship at the shrine of St. Anthony there.

In 1976, after the International Maritime Boundary Line was agreed upon, a fresh treaty was drawn up.

Under the 1976 agreement, Indian fishermen lost the right even to dry their nets and worship at the shrine though traditional practices continued.

The Sri Lankan Navy would patrol these seas to prevent smuggling of arms by the now vanquished Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

There have been tensions in the sea, and Tamil fishermen from India have accused the Sri Lankan Navy of firing, killing and wounding them.

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