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Supreme Court agrees to hear PIL seeking to declare Ram Sethu as national heritage monument

A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha took note of the submissions of the BJP leader Subramanian Swamy
Last Updated : 16 February 2023, 10:46 IST
Last Updated : 16 February 2023, 10:46 IST

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The Supreme Court Thursday agreed to list for hearing a PIL filed by former Rajya Sabha lawmaker Subramanian Swamy seeking a direction to the Centre to declare the Ram Sethu as a national heritage monument.

A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha took note of the submissions of the BJP leader that so far no decision has been taken on the issue and hence, the PIL be listed for hearing now.

“We will list it after the Constitution bench matters get over,” the CJI said.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by the CJI is seized of various matters, including the Delhi-Centre row over control of services in the national capital.

The top court, earlier on January 19, was told by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the Centre was looking into the issue pertaining to declaring the Ram Sethu as a national heritage monument.

The court had 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.

“Learned Solicitor General 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 had said.

“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 had said.

“I will come again,” the BJP leader had said. Swamy had 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 had said. The law officer had said that the government was looking into it.

Prior to this, 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.

Swamy 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.

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Published 16 February 2023, 08:59 IST

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