|Bench asks Centre to file reply on Ramar Sethu in four weeks|
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday transferred to itself petitions pending before the Madras High Court seeking a direction to stop dredging operations of the Sethusamudram project in the Ramar Sethu (Adams Bridge) area.
A three-Judge Bench, comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice Dalveer, ordered the transfer of the cases on two petitions filed by the Centre and the Sethusamudram Corporation, seeking transfer of the petitions for hearing by the apex court, since the issues involved in a pending matter in the apex court and the petitions in the High Court were similar. The Bench asked the Centre to file its response in four weeks on whether Ramar Sethu (Adams Bridge) could be declared a national archaeological monument, and whether the canal could be realigned without damaging it.
Senior counsel Arun Jaitley, appearing for Rama Gopalan, one of the petitioners before the High Court, opposed the transfer petitions contending the issues raised in the petitions before the High Court and the matter pending in the apex court were different. Since the High Court had directed the Centre to file its response on Ramar Sethu, the Centre should file its reply.
Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam, who appeared for the Centre, and R. Mohan, ASG, who appeared for the Sethusamudram Corporation, submitted that the environmental and archaeological issues were inter-connected and it would be better if all the petitions were heard together. Mr. Subramaniam said a comprehensive affidavit touching all issues would be filed. Mr. Rama Gopalan and Dr. Subramanian Swami had sought a direction to implement the project by following any other alternative route or alignment, without affecting or destroying or demolishing Ramar Sethu (Adams Bridge).
The Centre and the Corporation, in their transfer petitions, submitted that the High Court had entertained the writ petitions, which indirectly challenged the environmental clearance granted for the project. They said work on the Rs. 2,500-crore project was in progress for the last two years. The projectwas likely to be completed by November 2008. Challenging the project in the High Court would delay its progress.
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