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Do not harass fishermen: court

Staff Reporter

Says there should not be discrimination in issuing tokens for venturing into sea

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here has directed the Ramanathapuram Collector and the Assistant Director of Fisheries (Marine Resources) to ensure that fishermen, who had been issued with valid tokens authorising them to venture into the sea, were not being harassed by invoking penal provisions of the Tamil Nadu Marine Fishing Regulation Act, 1983.

A Division Bench comprising Justice D. Murugesan and Justice M. Duraiswamy passed the order while disposing of a public interest litigation petition filed by Verkodu Visai Padahu Meenavar Sangam, an association of fishermen using mechanised boats.

The judges also observed that there should not be any discrimination in issuing the fishing tokens.

President of the petitioner association, T. Antony Raj, pointed out that Section 4(5) of the Fishing Regulation Act required every fisherman sailing into the sea to obtain tokens from authorised officers before leaving the notified place of berth or anchoring.

The fishermen were supposed to hand over the tokens back to the officials immediately after returning to anchoring point.

The State Government had also issued a letter on December 8, 2008 prescribing certain procedures in this regard.

These procedures were laid down to avoid incidents of fishermen being apprehended by the Sri Lankan Navy on charges of crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line. These fishermen often faced problems for not possessing valid documents or identity cards.

The Government letter also stated that committees comprising the fishermen village president, fishermen cooperative society president, village administrative officer and one representative from each of the mechanised/motorised/traditional sector fishermen could be constituted in every fishing village for issuing the tokens.

It further clarified that the tokens could be printed at the local cooperative press and the cost could be borne by the respective cooperative societies.

The total number of tokens issued every week should be informed to the Assistant Director of Fishers (Marine Resources) on every Monday of the succeeding week in order to keep a record. The letter also read that sale of boats to unknown persons should be strictly avoided.

The committee as well as the Assistant Director were entrusted with the responsibility of supervising such sale. In the present case, the petitioner association alleged that its members were discriminated against in issuing the tokens.

However, the Collector refuted the allegations in his counter affidavit. .

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