He still remains a Morning Star for the Fishing Communities A tribute to Justice Hosbet Suresh by Coastal Action Network

20, Jul 2020 | Jesurathinam

Archives are very important because they provide evidence of activities and tell us more about individuals and institutions. They can even ensure justice. Therefore, creating an archive in the name of Justice Hosbet Suresh will benefit the future generation.

His commitment has lot to say to present and future activists. It will benefit more communities in their struggle for justice. This archive should also include his contribution to other environmental issues like sand mining and climate change.

All the verdicts and reports of Justice Hosbet Suresh reinvented a People’s Jurisprudence.

One can notice that he believed strongly,

  • Human rights are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent and include civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
  • Human rights are pro-poor with special attention to poor communities, especially women and children who are most marginalised
  • States, as duty bearers, are obliged to respect, protect and fulfill human rights for all people. Emphasis is on states as the duty bearers.

All his reports stand as evidence to his spirit of justice. Also, he used to state and believed that Article 21 of the Constitution of India, 1950 provides that, “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” ‘Life’ in Article 21 of the Constitution is not merely the physical act of breathing. It does not connote mere animal existence or continued drudgery through life. It has a much wider meaning which includes right to live with human dignity, right to livelihood, right to health, right to pollution free air, etc.

Here I would like to remember his contribution the Fishing Communities. In the year 1992, there was a great push for industrial aquaculture. It was encouraged through the policies and subsidies of the State. We were able to witness a boom in this industry, which led to conversion of vast stretch of agricultural and coastal lands, mangrove forests and encroachment of water bodies, that affected the livelihood resources of the fishing and farming communities.

An Expert Committee on Impact of Shrimp Farms Along the Coast of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry was constituted in July 1995, under the leadership of Justice H Suresh, to collect evidence from affected communities and bring out a report. The committee consisted of experts from different walks of life. Justice Suresh and the team visited the villages, collected evidence, followed by a public hearing where community leaders deposed the impacts of the industrial way of shrimp culture. This report was produced before the Supreme Court as evidence in the writ petition filed by the veteran Gandhian S. Jaganathan (WP 561/19194). The judgement by the SC on December 11, 1996, recognised this Expert Committee Report and nearly 15 pages from this report formed part of the verdict.

Later, The Coastal Aquaculture Act 2005 was enacted by the Parliament subverting the Provisions of the Supreme Court Verdict. Challenging the provisions of the Act, a PIL was filed in 2010. The Coastal Aquaculture Authority constituted under this act functioned only as a licensing agent and did not effectively function as monitoring authority. Hence Coastal Action Network organised a Public Hearing on the Impact of Shrimp Industries on the Fisher People, Small Farmers, Dalits and Landless Labourers on June 27, 2014. This was also headed by Justice Hosbet Suresh and he called for a to challenge the Act, as it is against the Supreme Court verdict. This exposed the violations all over the coastal districts and the inefficiency of the Coastal Aquaculture Authority.

Also, this verdict has been the base for filing many litigations, both in the lower courts and High Court of Chennai. The 16 directions of the Supreme Court formed the reference.

This archive of his historical contributions is a very good initiative. Congrats to the team.



Convenor, Costal Action Network, Tamil Nadu


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