M A I N   N E W S

Setu Project
Look for alternative route, SC tells Centre

New Delhi, May 8
The Supreme Court today told the Central government to explore the possibility of taking an alternative route to complete the Rs 2,400-crore Sethusamudram canal project so that the Ram Setu is not damaged.

Senior counsel F.S. Nariman, appearing for the Centre, agreed to convey the suggestion of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan to the government for due consideration.

A three-judge Bench headed by the Chief Justice also told the government to inform the court whether any scientific study had been undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), to ascertain whether the 25-km-long Ram Setu, also known as Adam’s Bridge, is a man made ancient monument of national heritage as per the directions of Madras High Court.

Earlier in the day, former union minister and Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy prayed to the three-Judge Bench comprising Chief Justice Balakrishnan and Justices R.V. Raveendran and J.M. Panchal to refer the petitions to the five-judge Constitution Bench for an authoritative pronouncement on the issue.

Swamy also prayed to the court to direct the government to go back to the drawing board to redo the entire exercise all over again, fairly, honestly and sincerly and then get back to the court.

The Janata Party president also pleaded for issuing a notice to union shipping and transport minister T.R. Baalu, to initiate contempt of court proceedings against him for making derogatory and contemptous remarks against the sitting judge Justice B. N. Agrawal for dragging the Tamil Nadu government into the controversy while directing the authorities, on August 31, last year, not to damage the Ram Setu in any manner while carrying out dredging activities for completion of Sethusamudram canal project.

Dr Swamy made it clear before the court that his only concern was the protection of Ram Setu and if the Central government was prepared to give an undertaking that the 25-km long Setu shall not be demolished, he would immediately withdraw his petition .

The court while adjourning the hearing till July 22, told the Central government “you can explore the possibility of an alternative alignment for the canal. By this the government would like to avoid the controversy”.

Swamy also told the court that the Central government had not taken any permission from the Sri Lankan government for completing the canal which would connect the Rameshwaram coast in Tamil Nadu to Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan government could go to the International Court of Justice on this issue.

According to the Swamy, KaniMozhi, daughter of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, is also a director of one the companies involved in the project.

Swamy concluded by telling the court that the Centre was ignoring the advice of its own committee and also overlooked the concerns expressed by Naval chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta and ex-DG Coast Guard, according to whom the canal would facilitate LTTE activities in India and the LTTE could set up its base at Kochi in Kerala. — UNI



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