SC restrains government from damaging Ram Setu
From Correspondents in Delhi, India, 08:32 PM IST
The Supreme Court Friday restrained the government from causing any damage to the mythological Ram Setu (bridge) off India's southern tip that would be destroyed for constructing a navigational sea route.
A bench of Justices B.N. Agarwal and P.P. Naolekar, however, allowed the government to continue dredging the peak of Ram Setu or Adam's Bridge in the narrow sea between Rameswaram in India and Talaimannar in Sri Lanka, but without causing any damage to it.
'Till Sep 14, the alleged Adam's Bridge or the Ramarsethu will not be damaged in any manner. The dredging activity may be carried out but without damaging the bridge,' the bench ordered the government after a two-hour-long hearing of an interim application by former union minister Subramanian Swamy.
Swami had approached the court saying he apprehended that plans may be afoot to blow apart the bridge that Hindus consider holy to pave way for the Sethusamudram ship canal.
He said that he had on Aug 26 visited Rameswaram where some fishermen told him that the government has begun drilling holes in the bridge area to fill it with research developed explosive to blow it apart.
Terming Swamy's fears as 'undue apprehensions', Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam urged the bench not to accede to his request as it would impede the pace of the ongoing Sethusamudram project.
Denying that the government had any plans to blow apart Adam's Bridge with explosives, Subramaniam however added that the Sethusamudram Corporation Limited, which is executing the project, was presently dredging the Adam's Bridge area. He said the bridge was actually a natural shallow undersea ridge, existing at a depth of 1.5 to 3.5 m below the water level.
Asked by the bench, if the dredging would damage the Adam's Bridge, the government law officer was unable to give a categorical assurance.
Pleading against interfering with the execution of the project, Subramaniam said that the government was willing to file a detailed affidavit Saturday and would like it to start hearing the matter from next week so that all obstacles to the project were removed for good.
Swamy however contended that the government wanted to go ahead with plans to blow up the bridge in the meantime.
Apparently inclined to grant a positive legal relief to Swamy, the bench asked the government whether several petitions challenging the Sethusamudram project and pending before the court would become meaningless if some damage is caused to the bridge during the time consuming adjudication of the issue.
'What will the court decide if something happens to the bridge,' the bench asked.
Earlier on July 17, a bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, acceding to a central government plea, had transferred all petitions pending in the Madras High Court against the Sethusamudram project, to itself.
The bench had also asked the government to file an affidavit to explain whether the Ram Setu could be declared a national monument after making minor alterations in the project's intended course.
Readily agreeing to the bench's directions, Subramaniam had promised that the government in its affidavit would also detail the environmental studies on the Rs.25 billion project.
While a batch of petitions in the Madras High Court has sought certain minor alterations in the project's course to protect the bridge, a petition in the apex court has raised serious doubts over the environmental impact of the channel.
India does not have continuous navigational sea route around its peninsula through its own territorial waters due to the shallow undersea ridge or Adam's Bridge.
Ships calling at Indian ports on the east coast have to go around Sri Lanka - an additional distance of 254 to 424 nautical miles and an additional time of 18 to 30 hours. The canal project was cleared by the central government in 2005.
(Staff Writer, © IANS)
Carry out dredging without damaging ‘Rama Sethu’: SC
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday, by an interim order, restrained the Centre and the Sethusamudram Corporation from causing damage in any manner to “alleged” ‘Rama Sethu’ (Adam’s bridge) while implementing the Sethusamudram canal project.
A Bench consisting of Justices B.N. Agrawal and P.P. Naolekar passed this restraint order till September 14 on an application filed by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy apprehending that Rama Sethu would be damaged in the next few days using RDX explosives.
The Bench issued notice on the application seeking the response of the Centre, the Sethusamudram Corporation and other respondents on the question of interim relief — not to damage Rama Sethu as well as the main transferred petitions. “Till September 14, the alleged Rama Sethu/Adam’s bridge shall not be damaged in any manner. Dredging activity may be carried out so long as it does not damage Rama Sethu.”
Additional Solicitor-General Gopal Subramanian (appearing for the Centre) and Additional Solicitor-General R. Mohan (appearing for the Sethusamudram Corporation) opposed the grant of any interim stay. They pointed out that since 2005 the court had refused interim stay and the same position should continue.
When both of them refused to give any assurance that Rama Sethu would not be damaged, the Bench said: “If you demolish the bridge, which is the subject matter in this petition, what will remain for this court to decide. Nobody has any objection to dredging but no damage should be caused to the bridge. If the bridge vanishes what will happen to the petition? If you say the government’s view has always to prevail, there is nothing for this court to decide. If it is destroyed it cannot be restored back. That is our worry.”
Mr. Subramanian maintained that Rama Sethu was not man made and the study conducted by the Geological Survey of India and the scientific evidence collected by the government showed that the stretch was a natural formation of sand and calcium deposits.
“According to the government, the bridge is not a national monument. There are various interpretations of the Ramayana and every aspect has been considered by the government in larger perspective,” he said.
Dr. Swamy said: “I am not opposing the project. I want Rama Sethu declared an ancient monument and to implement the project by following any alternative route or alignment without affecting or destroying Rama Sethu. If the bridge is demolished, irreparable damage would be caused. Self-declared atheists are systematically debasing our values and are keen on implementing the project ignoring the sentiments of the people.”
When Mr. Subramanian opposed this, the Bench told Dr. Swamy, “Do not bring in politics here.” Dr. Swamy replied, “I am saying this only to show the bias of those who want the bridge to be demolished.”
The Bench told Mr. Subramaniam, “You are not in a position to say that in the meantime [until the response is filed] no damage will happen to the bridge. In what way do you suffer if the interim order [not to damage the bridge] is passed?”
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