STATE OF KERALA JOYACHAN ANTONY Vs. JOSEPH ANTONY:STATE OF KERALA
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA (FROM: KERALA)
STATE OF KERALA,JOYACHAN ANTONY
STATE OF KERALA,JOSEPH ANTONY
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(1.)The dispute in the present case is essentially between the fishermen in the State of Kerala who use traditional fishing crafts such as catamarams, country crafts and canoes which use manually operated traditional nets and those who use mechanised crafts which mechanically operate sophisticated nets like purse seine, ring seine, pelagic trawl and mid-water trawl gears for fishing in the territorial waters of the State. In order to understand the nature and parameters of the dispute, it is necessary to know certain facts relating to the social life in the State and the marine life in the territorial waters of the State as well as the scope and object of the regulations made by the State to regulate fishing in its territorial waters.
(2.)The fisherman-population actively engaged in fishing by traditional fishing vessels in the territorial waters of the State which was earlier 5,37,017 increased by 20.8% to 6,32,967 in the year 1981. However, the average landing of the fish in the traditional sector of fishing declined by 50.3% from 3,34,992 tonnes in 1969-71 to 1,68,512 tonnes in 1980-82. During this period, the number of traditional crafts such as catamarams, country crafts and canoes increased by 14% from 29,560 to 33,805. This shows that in terms of production, the average of 3.55 tonnes per annum per fisherman declined to 1.55 tonnes per annum during this period. The annual income of the traditional fisherman-household which constitutes 89% of the total fisherman-household decreased, and the households falling below the poverty line (Rs. 3,500/- per annum) were as high as 98.5% in the year 1979. These figures speak for themselves and leave no doubt that the traditional fishermen constitute one of the weaker sections of the society needing protection at the hands of the State as ordained particularly by Article 46 of the Constitution.
(3.)These fishermen till the year 1979 were exploiting exclusively the pelagic (surface) fish resources of the sea within the territorial waters by using the country crafts and the traditional nets. However, in that year for the first time, few rich enterprises introduced the use of purse seine gears for exploiting the pelagic resources of the sea by operating costly mechanical fishing vessels. The purse seine is a sophisticated gear and covers a wide area. A purse seine net which is on an average 400 metres in circumference covers an area of 12,826 square metres, i.e., more than 1 hectare and catches on an average 600 to 800 tonnes of fish per annum. As against this, the traditional fishing crafts in the period 1969-71 could catch only 11.3 tonnes per annum which was reduced to 5 tonnes per annum in 1980-82. These figures are not only sufficient to show the comparative advantage and disadvantage of fishing by purse seine gears as against by the traditional fishing crafts and nets but also the adverse effect which the use of the sophisticated gears had on the catch of fish by the traditional fishing crafts.
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