"File your (Tamil Nadu) response affidavit within two weeks and give copies (of affidavit) to the Solicitor General and others at least two-three days before the filing. The pleadings in the case is almost complete," a bench of justices H L Dattu and J S Khehar said.
During the hearing, Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy, one of the petitioners, said now the court should decide the issue as the Centre had rejected the R K Pachauri Committee report that had found the entire Sethusamudram project unviable, economically as well as ecologically.
The Centre, in its affidavit, had said it intended to go ahead with the Rs 25,000 crore Sethusamudram shipping channel project on the ground that it has economic, navigational and strategic advantages and moreover an expenditure of Rs 829.32 crore has already been incurred on it as on June 30, 2012.
The court had earlier asked the Centre to apprise it of its stand on the controversial project following the Pachauri Committee report. The case relating to Ram Sethu had come under judicial scrutiny as a batch of petitions were filed in the apex court against the ambitious project, whose execution, the petitioners feared, could damage the mythological bridge.
Sethusamudram project is aimed at constructing a shorter navigational route around India's southern tip by breaching the Ram Sethu, said to have been built by Lord Rama's army of monkeys and bears to Ravana's kingdom Lanka.
As per the Sethusamudram project, the shipping channel is proposed to be 30 mt wide, 12 mt deep and 167 km long.
After the apex court had asked the government to explore an alternative alignment for the shipping channel to prevent any damage to the mythological bridge.
The committee, in its report, had raised questions on the alternative alignment after taking into account various aspects including its economic and ecological assessment.
It had said the entire Sethusamudram project was unviable economically as well as ecologically.
The court, on August 31, 2007, had restrained the Centre from damaging Ram Sethu while dredging for the Rs 25,000 crore project inaugurated in 2005.