The State and the Central governments may take appropriate steps to ensure the release of 68 Indian fishermen, who were detained by the Sri Lanka navy, last week, the Madras High Court said on Monday.

A suggestion to this effect was given by the Bench of Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice D Bharatha Chakravarthy, while disposing of a PIL petition from Armstrong Fernando, national vice-chairman of the All India Fishermen Congress, even as it wondered why the fishers crossed the IMBL.

The Judges said they can only express their sympathy over the arrest of the Tamil Nadu fishermen, but cannot issue any clear cut direction ordering their release, as it lacked jurisdiction over such issues.

They said that the Ministry of External Affairs may take necessary steps through diplomatic channels for securing the release of the fishermen.

The Bench also wondered as to why the fishermen crossed the international maritime boundary. It may be because of the over utilisation of the potential in Indian seas, it added.

The Court also directed the authorities concerned to take appropriate steps to find a permanent solution to the perennial problem.

Petitioner prayed for a direction to the governments to enforce articles 5 and 6 of the agreement between Sri Lanka and India on the boundary issue, signed in June 1974. The life and liberty of the arrested fishermen were at stake due to the statutory default of the Indian government in monitoring the implementation of these provisions in the Katchatheevu agreement.

Frequent arrests, torture, illegal detention and seizure of boats posed a great danger to the life and liberty of the state's fishermen, he added.

Katchatheevu islet was ceded to Sri Lanka by India in the 1970s.

With PTI inputs