NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court will list for hearing BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s plea seeking a direction to the Centre to declare the Ram Sethu a national heritage monument.
A bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, which had agreed to list the plea for hearing on July 26, said it could not list the same as one of the judges of the bench concerned had some health issues.
Adam’s Bridge, also known as Rama’s Bridge or Rama Setu is a chain of natural limestone shoals, between Pamban Island also known as Rameswaram Island, off the south-eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, India, and Mannar Island, off the north-western coast of Sri Lanka. Geological evidence suggests that this bridge is a former land connection between India and Sri Lanka.
The feature is 48 km long and separates the Gulf of Mannar (southwest) from the Palk Strait (northeast). Some of the regions are dry, and the sea in the area rarely exceeds 1 metre in depth, thus hindering navigation.
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. Sethu Samudram Ship Canal Project was initially proposed in 1860 and three feasibility committees had been set up in 1955, 1983 and 1996 for this project. A detailed feasibility study to conduct techno-economic and environmental studies was entrusted to NEERI, in Nagpur. Tuticorin Port Trust is a nodal agency to implement this project.
The matter reached the apex court, which in 2007 stayed work for the project on the Ram Sethu.
Considering the “socio-economic disadvantages” of the project, the Centre later had said it 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 Skeletomuscular 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.
Following this, the apex court had on November 13, 2019 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.