Rameswaram (Tamil Nadu): The families of five fishermen, who were awarded capital punishment by a Sri Lankan court last month on drug-trafficking charges, today met Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and sought immediate steps by India to bring them back home.
Gadkari assured them government would take necessary legal steps and take up their case in the court in Sri Lanka for their release.
He also informed them that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had instructed Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka to hold talks with officials concerned in the island nation to secure the release of the fishermen.
The minister told them he would convey the feelings of the families to Sushma Swaraj and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and request that an early solution be found on the matter.
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari
"We will study the matter in detail and hold discussions with officials and later discuss it in the cabinet", he said. Gadkari said the Centre was also taking steps to find a permanent solution to the vexed problem of harassment of Tamil Nadu fishermen, allegedly by Sri Lankan Navy "while fishing in territorial waters," he said.
Gadkari was here to undertake an aerial inspection of the controversial Sethusamudram Shipping Channel route. Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan was also present during the meeting.
The five fishermen, all hailing from Tamil Nadu, were apprehended in 2011 by the Sri Lankan Navy on charges of smuggling drugs in the seas off northern Jaffna's Delft islet. On October 30 this year, they were given the death penalty by a court in Colombo.
The five were among a group of eight sentenced to death for alleged involvement in heroin trafficking between India and Sri Lanka in 2011. The other three are Sri Lankans. Their arrest had sparked protests in various parts of Tamil Nadu.