Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram has taken a strong exception to the Centre’s affidavit in the Madras High Court on Tuesday that the issue of maritime boundary between India and Sri Lanka and the related Katchatheevu island was a settled matter. ‘The Hindu’ said that the Chief Minister urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to direct the officials concerned to “file an appropriately revised affidavit in the court.”
In a letter to Mr. Modi, the AIADMK leader said she was “appalled and shocked” at the stand taken by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in the affidavit filed in a case by ‘Fishermen Care’ of Pallavaram. Perhaps the counter affidavit had been ‘prepared and approved’ by the previous UPA government and the “matter was not brought to your personal attention,” Ms. Jayalalithaa said.
“It has always been the stand of my government that Katchatheevu is an integral part of the territory of India,” she said, referring to the issue that she had specifically raised in the memorandum submitted to Mr. Modi recently. She added that India’s sovereignty over the island had to be retrieved.
Hiowever the Indian Ministers of External Affairs clarified time and again in Parliament that the maritime border and the ownership of Katchatheevu decided once and for all in 1974 and 1976 and it is a ‘closed chapter’.
Urging the Centre to take active steps to “abrogate” the 1974 and 1976 agreements (that ceded the small island in the Palk Straits off Rameswaram to Sri Lanka), “retrieve” Katchatheevu and restore the traditional fishing rights of fishermen of Tamil Nadu, the Chief Minister recalled the steps taken by her in this regard. These included a resolution in the Tamil Nadu Assembly as early as 1991 and the writ petition filed by her in the Supreme Court in 2008 seeking restoration of Katchatheevu. Ms. Jayalalithaa cited the Supreme Court ruling in the ‘Berubari case’ of 1960, which said any territory owned by India could be ceded to another country only through a Constitutional amendment. In the case of Katchatheevu, it was done without such an amendment and hence it was unlawful and invalid, she stressed. These circumstances had emboldened the Sri Lankan Navy to resort to frequent attacks on “our innocent fishermen who fish in their traditional fishing grounds,” she said.
She said the affidavit filed on MEA’s behalf in the High Court, thus “comes as a rude shock.”
The Centre should modify its affidavit in the court, “which adequately reflects our concerns, without further delay,” she added.