Madurai: A division bench of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court here has directed the Union Government to file a report listing steps that could be taken to prevent the deaths of Indian citizens in Sri Lankan waters in future. Justices Vinod K Sharma and A Selvam issued instructions to Additional Solicitor General (ASG) P Wilson in this regard on Monday after hearing a batch of public interest litigation petitions seeking adequate protection for Tamil Nadu fishermen by deploying naval vessels in the Indian Ocean.
“It (deploying coast guards) is purely a government policy. The High Court does not have the jurisdiction to direct the Supreme Commander of forces to deploy forces in a particular zone. That would amount to initiating an indirect war against a nation”, said Justice Vinod K Sharma. “The High Court could however monitor the progress of FIRs filed on the deaths of Indian fishermen”, he added.
While the petitioners and the State government claimed that the Tamil Nadu fishermen were assaulted within the limits of Indian territory, the Union Government stood firm on its stand that fishermen who entered the Sri Lankan waters alone were assaulted. Rapping the Centre for failing to consider the plight of Indian fishermen, who enter the Sri Lankan waters, the judges asked what steps the Union Government has taken to prevent the fishermen from entering the Sri Lankan waters. “We are educating the fishermen against entering the Sri Lankan waters”, replied the ASG.
The court asked for the steps that could be taken to prevent the deaths of Indian citizens in Sri Lankan waters.
Not convinced with the reply, the judges asked the Union Government to consider an effective warning system or serious actions to prohibit Indian fishermen from crossing the IMBL. “They are not fishermen from TN, but they are Indian citizens. As a democratic country, we are bound to give protection to citizens when they die”, the bench told the Union Government. Therefore, the judges asked the ASG to get instructions from the Centre and file a report on whatever measures that could be taken to protect the lives of Indian citizens.