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Jaya moves SC to get back island from Sri Lanka

August 07, 2008 19:49 IST

Former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa on Thursday moved the Supreme Court seeking direction to the Union government for retrieving the 'Kachatheevu' island that had been ceded to Sri Lanka [Images] by India in 1974.

Jayalalitha, while contending that the move was unconstitutional, has also urged the apex court to quash the March 23, 1976 maritime boundary agreement which, according to her, deprived the fishing rights to Indian fishermen in the Bay of Bengal and Gulf of Mannar.

In her petition, the former chief minister pleaded that such a direction was essential as it involved the livelihood of thousands of fishermen in Tamil Nadu, whose fundamental rights are being violated due to action by Sri Lankan authorities.

Tracing the history of the 285 acres of Kachatheevu, an uninhabited island, Jaya complained that in 1974 the then Indian government ceded the territory to Sri Lanka through an executive agreement in violation of Article 368 of the Constitution.

Quoting the apex court judgments in the Berubari, Ram Kishore and other cases, Jaya submitted that the apex court had clearly held that under Article 368, it was only Parliament which can make a law to give effect to and implement an agreement.

But in the case of Kachatheevu, she said no such law was made and instead the territory was ceded by an executive agreement.

With the island under its control, Sri Lanka, she alleged, was adopting a hostile attitude towards fishermen from Tamil Nadu who have no other source of livelihood.

"The poor and helpless fishermen have been put to untold hardship on this count. Thus, the fundamental rights of the Indian fishermen are being gravely affected and these unjustified acts of the Sri Lankan navy are continuing till date," the petition stated.

While seeking quashing of the 1974 agreement, Jaya suggested that alternatively the apex court should give direction to the Centre 'to obtain or re-gain' the right of access to Kachatheevu island and the right to engage in fishing around the island.

She also wanted the Centre to take steps to protect the lives and livelihood of the Indian fishermen carrying on fishing activities near the island.

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