Centre may ask SL not to send fishermen to gallows

New Delhi likely to invoke bilateral agreement to bring them home

Centre may ask SL not to send fishermen to gallows

The Centre is likely to request Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa to commute the capital punishment awarded to five Indian fishermen if the island nation’s Supreme Court upholds the lower court verdict.

New Delhi is also likely to invoke a bilateral agreement to bring the fishermen back to serve the sentence in India, if Sri Lanka commutes the capital punishment to life imprisonment.

Sri Lankan lawyers consulted by New Delhi’s envoy to Colombo are of the view that death sentence awarded to the five fishermen is “a miscarriage of justice”.
India’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Yash Sinha, had a meeting with lawyers to prepare for filing an appeal to the Supreme Court of the neighbouring country, challenging the verdict of the High Court of Colombo awarding the death sentence to five fishermen from Tamil Nadu.

“Our High Commissioner in Colombo has had detailed discussions with the lawyers. Their assessment is that there has been miscarriage of justice and they would like to appeal against that,” said Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

The lawyers are waiting for an authenticated copy of the judgment of the Colombo High Court. They have time till November 14 to file an appeal.

“It is the court decision and we respect judiciary as India does. India is going through the legal system and we appreciate that. Interfering in the judiciary process is not practiced here,” Dr Keheliya Rambukwella, Minister of Mass Media and Information of Sri Lanka, was quoted in media reports from Colombo. 

Five Indian fishermen–Emerson, P Augustus, R Wilson, K Prasath and J Langlet–were among eight drug traffickers, who were awarded death sentence by the Colombo High Court on Thursday.

The other three were Sri Lankan nationals.
The eight were apprehended by Sri Lankan Navy near Delft Island on the Palk Strait on November 28, 2011. They were accused of smuggling narcotics. The fishermen, however, claimed innocence right from the beginning.

Senior MEA officials discussed the issue with Sudharshan Seneviratne, Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to India. Sinha, on the other hand, took up the matter with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister G L Peiris and Sri Lankan Defence Minister Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The Sri Lankan president had in the past commuted death sentence awarded to Indians by a court in the island nation to life imprisonment. The two had been subsequently brought back to serve the prison term in India, in accordance with the bilateral agreement for transfer of sentenced persons.

While one of them had been set free, the other was still in a jail in India.  
“India is clearly aware of another country’s legal systems, treaties signed, convicts exchange agreements,” Rambukwella said in Colombo.

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