A PIL was filed before a division bench comprising Justice S Manikumar and Justice Subramonium Prasad by Fisherman Care, an NGO, seeking direction to the Centre to refer all cases of violation of human rights of Indian fishermen by Sri Lanka to the International Court of Justice.
Based on the PIL, the bench, in its order, said that considering the safety and security of the fishermen who land in problems day in and day out, it is the desire of the court that the government extend its maximum subsidy to the fishermen and submit a report by February 20.
The order was passed after the bench went through the report of the director of Fisheries, Tamil Nadu government, and the copy of the letter sent by the Ministry of External Affairs submitted by Assistant Solicitor General G Karthikeyan.
The court was informed by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) that it had no plans to provide satellite phones to fishermen.
The ministry, in its letter to the assistant solicitor general, said that based on the directive of the National Committee for Strengthening Maritime and Coastal Security, it had undertaken a proof of concept (PoC) pilot study to evaluate the transponder technology developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
In this regard, the ISRO has informed that 1,050 MSS-based transponder terminals were being installed in 20-metre fishing vessels in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat (500 terminals each) and Puducherry(50 terminals).
It further said that transponders are wireless satellite-based communication devices considered for fitment on the fishing vessels by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the ISRO.
The Ahmedabad Earth Station hub (capable of handling upto 4,000 terminals) is supporting the PoC terminals.
Subsequently, the operations would be migrated to the Delhi Earth Station.
Stating further that presently 819 PoC are installed in the field in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry and Gujarat, the ministry has informed that the Home Affairs Ministry has conveyed that it has no plans to provide satellite phones to fishermen.
The MEA also informed that the transponders fitted in the mechanised boats were still in trial stage and their efficacy was being monitored by the ISRO.
Further, the development of transponder hardware and the required back-end user utility software components were also in the trial stage.
The fishermen have informed that the battery connected to the transponders drains out within 30 minutes after switching on.
Further, the fishermen have said the system was not switching on due to interference between I-Com and transponders.
Hence, it was suggested to conduct a field study at the Chennai Fishing Harbour to solve the issues.
Recording this, the bench posted the matter for further hearing to February 20