The Attorney General of India Mukul Rohatgi on Tuesday told the Indian Supreme Court that retrieval of Kachchatheevu Island from Sri Lanka was impossible.
"The island was given to Sri Lanka on the basis of a bilateral agreement in 1974. To retrieve it now, we have to go to war," Indian media reported quoting the Attorney General Rohatgi.
Responding to the AG's statement, a bench of Chief Justice R M Lodha and Justices Kurian Joseph and R F Nariman said, "In the Supreme Court, we talk of peace and not war."
Rohatgi's suo motu statement came during hearing of two petitions by member of Parliament AKS Vijayan and deputy speaker of Lok Sabha M Thambidurai, who had sought the SC's intervention for early release of 107 Tamil Nadu fishermen arrested by Sri Lankan navy for allegedly straying into their territorial waters.
The fishermen flock to Kachchatheevu as the area around the island yields a rich catch of fish and they routinely get arrested and harassed by the Lankan navy, the petitioners had alleged.
The court told the petitioners that they were members of Parliament and could well raise the issue in the House and impress upon the government the gravity of the situation. "How can the court get into a matter that lies squarely between India and Sri Lanka," it asked.
"How do we invoke our jurisdiction in such matters? We do not deny there could be hardship for the fishermen. But how can we deal with issues relating to foreign countries? Best way is to leave it to the political dispensation. Now, the political dispensation has changed. You bring the issue to their notice. You are no lay person but important political person," the bench said.
The bench disposed of the petitions saying the petitioners could make fresh representation to the NDA government raising issues of fishermen's arrest, compensation to families and more vigilant patrolling by Coast Guard to prevent straying of fishermen into Lankan waters.