SC to hear plea to declare 'Ram Sethu' national heritage monument on April 26

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy had filed a plea seeking a direction to the Centre for declaring ‘Ram Sethu’ as a national heritage monument

The Supreme Court on Thursday said it will hear on April 26 the plea of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy seeking a direction to the Centre for declaring ‘Ram Sethu’ as a national heritage monument.

A bench comprising Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and Justices A.S. Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian was urged by Mr. Swamy that the plea needed an urgent hearing.

The CJI, who would superannuate on April 23, said,"let next CJI (Justice N.V. Ramana) deal with this issue. I do not have so much time. This issue requires time and I don’t have it." The bench listed the matter on April 26 for hearing after the BJP leader submitted that this issue is pending for quite long time.

Earlier on January 23, 2020, the apex court had said it will consider after three months the plea of Mr. Swamy on ‘Ram Sethu’ as a national heritage monument.

Ram Sethu, also known as Adam’s bridge, is a chain of limestone shoals between between Pamban Island, also known as Rameswaram 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 has already won the first round of the litigation in which the Centre accepted the existence of Ram Sethu.

He had further said the union minister concerned had called a meeting in 2017 to consider his demand to declare the Sethu as a national heritage monument but subsequently nothing happened.

The top court referred to pendency of several cases before it and asked Mr. Swamy to mention his plea after three three months.

However, the case could not be listed after three months as the apex court started the hearing of urgent matters only through video conferencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent lockdown.

The BJP leader had earlier raised the issue of declaring Ram Sethu as a 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 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 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.

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 limestone shoals.

The apex court had on November 13, 2019 had granted six weeks to the Centre to clarify its stand on the Ram Sethu. It had also granted liberty to Mr. Swamy to approach the court if the response of the Centre was not filed.

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