SC postpones Ram Sethu national heritage status plea

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy after a hearing in relation to his petition regarding Ram Setu, at the Supreme Court premises, in New Delhi, Tuesday, Sept 25, 2018. (PTI Photo)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked BJP leader Subramanian Swamy to wait for 10 days for a direction to the Centre to clear its stand on giving national heritage status to the mythological 'Ram Sethu'.

Ram Sethu or Adam's bridge is a chain of limestone shoals between Pamban or Rameswaram Island off the south-eastern coast of Tamil Nadu and Mannar Island on the north-western coast of Sri Lanka.

Swamy told a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud that even after its direction, the Centre has not filed an affidavit on the issue of Ram Sethu.

He said the court had issued a notice to the Centre on the matter but even after 10 years, it has not responded on the issue.

"You wait for another ten days. Then come again," the bench said.

Swamy had in March this year announced that he would be moving the top court to direct the Centre to declare Ram Sethu as a national heritage monument.

The BJP leader had earlier raised the issue of declaring Ram Sethu as national monument in his PIL against the controversial Sethusamudram Ship Channel project, initiated by the UPA-I government.

The matter had reached the apex court which in 2007 had stayed the work for the project on the Ram Sethu.

The Centre had later said that it considered the "socio-economic disadvantages" of the project and was willing to explore an alternative route to the shipping channel project without damaging the 'Ram Setu'.

"That the Government of India intends to explore an alternative to the earlier alignment of 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 had then asked the government to file a fresh affidavit.

In the Ramayana, the Rama Setu bridge was built by the 'Vanara army' to rescue Sita who was kidnapped by Ravana.

The Sethusamudram shipping channel project has been facing protests from some political parties, environmentalists and certain Hindu religious groups.

Under the project, a 83 km-long deep water channel was to be created, linking Mannar with Palk Strait, by extensive dredging and removal of the limestone shoals.

The apex court had on November 13 last year granted six weeks to the Centre to clarify its stand on the mythical Ram Sethu, a chain of limestone shoals between the coasts of India and Sri Lanka. It had also granted liberty to Swamy to approach the court if the response of the Centre was not filed.

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SC postpones Ram Sethu national heritage status plea

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