Issue of declaring Ram Sethu as national heritage monument under process, Centre to SC
Ram Sethu, also known as Adam's bridge, is a chain of limestone shoals between Pamban Island, off the south-eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, and Mannar Island, off the north-western coast of Sri Lanka
The Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that it was looking into the issue pertaining to declaring the Ram Sethu as a national heritage monument.
A bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice J B Pardiwala, which was hearing a PIL filed by former Rajya Sabha lawmaker Subramanian Swamy on the issue, asked the BJP leader to make a representation to the government if he wished so.
“Learned Solicitor General (Tushar Mehta) states that a process is currently underway in the Ministry of Culture. He states that the petitioner (Swamy) may submit additional communication if he may so wish,” the bench said.
The court asked the Centre to take a decision on the issue and granted Swamy the liberty to move before it again if he is dissatisfied and disposed of his interim application on the issue.
“I do not want to meet anybody... We are in the same party, it was there in our manifesto. Let them decide in six weeks or whatever,” Swamy said.
“I will come again,” the BJP leader said. At the outset of the brief hearing, Swamy said that in 2019, the then Culture Minister Prahlad Patel had called a meeting on the issue and had made a recommendation for declaring the Ram Sethu as a national heritage monument.
“The issue is that they have to say-- ‘yes’ or ‘no’,” he said. The law officer said that the government was looking into it.
The bench, which was sitting in a three-judge combination, said that Justice PS Narasimha will not be part of the proceedings as he had earlier appeared in the matter as a counsel earlier.
Consequently, the order was passed by the two judges, the CJI and Justice Pardiwala, in the case.
Earlier, the top court had said it would take up the plea of Swamy in the second week of February.
Ram Sethu, also known as Adam's bridge, is a chain of limestone shoals between Pamban Island, off the south-eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, and Mannar Island, off the north-western coast of Sri Lanka.
The BJP leader had submitted that he had already won the first round of the litigation in which the Centre accepted the existence of Ram Sethu.
He said the Union minister concerned had called a meeting in 2017 to consider his demand but nothing happened subsequently.
The BJP leader had raised the issue of declaring the Ram Sethu a national monument in his PIL against the controversial Sethusamudram Ship Channel project, initiated by the UPA-I government.
The matter reached the apex court, which in 2007 stayed work for the project on the Ram Sethu.
The Centre later said it had considered the "socio-economic disadvantages" of the project and was willing to explore another route to the shipping channel project without damaging the Ram Sethu.
"That the Government of India intends to explore an alternative to the earlier alignment of the Sethusamudram Ship Channel project without affecting/damaging the Adam's Bridge/Ram Sethu in the interest of the nation," the affidavit filed by the ministry had said.
The court then asked the government to file a fresh affidavit.
The Sethusamudram shipping channel project has been facing protests from some political parties, environmentalists and certain Hindu religious groups.
Under the project, an 83 km water channel was to be created, linking Mannar with Palk Strait, by extensive dredging and removal of limestone shoals.
On November 13, 2019, the apex court had granted the Centre six weeks to clarify its stand on the Ram Sethu. It had also granted Swamy liberty to approach the court if the response of the Centre was not filed.