The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to spell out its stand on the expert committee’s report on alternative alignment to the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project without cutting across Adam’s Bridge or Ramar Sethu.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices R.V. Raveendran and J.M. Panchal granted four weeks time to the Union government to respond to the fresh application filed by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy for a direction to the Centre to scrap the Sethusamudram project, citing the adverse report submitted by the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO).

Dr. Swamy submitted that after the court reserved verdict on July 30, 2008 and appointed the R.K. Pachauri Committee to suggest an alternative alignment for the project, the NIO had submitted its report to the government in March stating that it would be disastrous for India to proceed with the project.

He said the NIO had recommended that a full-fledged Environmental Impact Analysis and de novo investigation be carried out. He said 15 months had passed since the committee was constituted and the government had not come out with its report or expressed its stand.

Additional Solicitor-General Harin Raval, appearing for the Centre, submitted that the NIO report was only part of an input and not a conclusive report or part of the committee’s report. He said the committee had met on four occasions and was still examining the feasibility of the project.

Mr. Justice Raveendran told the ASG: “At some stage you have to disclose what is your stand on the project.” The CJI said: “You state what is [in] the report. What is the advice given? What is your stand on the report? You have to take some decision. We are not passing any order at this stage, but we have to take a decision one way or the other.” The Bench set December 11 as the date for further hearing.

Inadequate data

According to the application, the NIO report says: “The data available in the region of interest are meagre and clearly inadequate for an assessment of the possible impact of the project. Hence, all that could be validly attempted was a simulation model to examine the consequences of a change in the alignment of the Sethusamudram project.”

Pointing out that the report had recommended a full-fledged Environmental Impact Analysis “to enable robust conclusions,” the application said the project could not proceed at all and should be scrapped. It sought a direction to invalidate the project and appoint an impartial committee to de novo consider the project only after the requisite data had been collected over a period of years and the same had been properly studied.

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