Could it be declared a national monument or not?

The Supreme Court on Thursday granted the Centre a further two weeks to spell out its stand on whether or not the ancient Ram Sethu (Adam's Bridge) could be declared a national monument as demanded by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy. Additional Solicitor-General Haren Raval told a Bench of Justices H.L. Dattu and Anil R. Dave that consultation was needed with the competent authority and some more time was required to file an affidavit. Dr. Swamy, however, opposed grant of further time.

Justice Dattu told the ASG: “Take a decision whether or not” [the Centre can declare Ram Sethu a national monument]. The Bench posted further hearing to April 19.

On March 27, Mr. Raval told the Bench that the matter required to be placed before the Cabinet Secretary for taking an appropriate decision and he would take instructions. The Bench then posted further hearing to March 29.

In his application, Dr. Swamy sought directions in terms of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 Act for the preservation, protection and maintenance of one of India's oldest and best known ancient monuments, revered by millions of persons of a large number of creeds. He said the Culture and Tourism Ministry was directed to file a counter affidavit explaining whether any study was undertaken by the Archaeological or any other department and whether the bridge could be regarded as a national monument within the meaning of the 1958 Act.

But no response was forthcoming from the Centre though he had reminded it of the issue from time to time, Dr. Swamy said. On February 22, in reply to his RTI query whether the Ministry had considered the question of Ram Sethu as a heritage monument, the Director (World Heritage) Appellate Tribunal stated: “No. The ASI has not yet carried out any study/investigation in the matter, and as such not in a position to comment.” Adding insult to injury, Dr. Swamy said, the Director sought to put the whole blame for the government's non-response on the judicial proceedings by stating: “Moreover the Sethusamudram case is currently sub judice in the Supreme Court.”

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