New Delhi, May 1 (UNI) Ram Setu, also known as Adam's Bridge, cannot be demolished without ascertaining through a scientific study conducted by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) whether it is man-made or a natural formation, senior Counsel K K Venugopal today contended before the Supreme Court.
Mr Venugopal also contended before a bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices R V Raveendran and J M Panchal that it was strange that the Centre was not prepared to investigate whether Ram Setu is an ancient monument and was spending huge amounts of public money on Sethusamudram Project, having an estimated cost of over Rs 2400 crore.
Sethusamudram has a length of 270 km, out of which Ram Setu is 31 meters long.
According to Mr Venugopal, who appeared for Dandi Swami and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa also, Government owed a duty to the people of the country that before demolishing Ram Setu, it convinced itself that the bridge is only a natural formation and not man-made.
He also drew attention to the alleged callousness of the Government and efforts to avoid convincing study by ASI to find out whether Ram Setu is man-made and sought to know from the Government what would happen if the study confirms that Ram Setu is man-made after it has been demolished.
Quoting from the report of former Director General of Geological Survey of India, Mr Venugopal contended that there was evidence of human habitation in the vicinity of Ram Setu.
Pleading for rejection of the committee report which is headed by a man who is monitoring the progress of Setusamudram project on behalf of the Government, Mr Venugopal contended that the report could not be accepted as it ran counter to the facts admitted by the Government in its own affidavit.
According to Mr Venugopal, the Government has categorically stated in its affidavit that no study has been carried out to find out whether Ram Setu is manmade or a natural formation.
Earlier, Shriram Kunju appearing for another petitioner, contended before the court that the Government has not conducted any comprehensive environment impact assessment, disaster management or Tsunami impact as a result of the ongoing project. He also contended that even the provisions of Pollution Control Act and Wildlife Act have been ignored.
The petitoners are seeking a declaration from the apex court that Ram Setu is a monument of national heritage and should not be destroyed.
Notably, former Union Minister Subramanian Swamy in his application levelled serious allegations against Union Shipping and Transport minister T R Baalu alleging that he and his family members are having huge pecuniary interest in the project.
The petitoners are pressing that Setusamudram bridge should not pass through Alignment six as it will necessitate the removal of Ram Setu and the project must take an alternative root.
According to Dr Swamy, daughter of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, Kanimozhi, a Rajya Sabha member also has vested financial interest in the project and this is why the Government is in a tearing hurry to complete the project without caring for the faith and sentiments of 80 million people of this country who believe that Ram Setu was constructed by Lord Rama to reach Sri Lanka.
Setusamudram project, when completed, will save three days of navigation time for the ships sailing between Sri Lanka and Indian coast.
The arguments remained inconclusive and will continue next week.
The Central Government is pressing for vacation of an interim stay granted by the apex court on August 31 last year directing the Government not to damage Ram Setu in any manner while carrying out dredging activity.
UNI SC GL RP PM1700