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Centre’s stand likely today on alternative alignment for Sethu

Legal Correspondent

It has not complied with court directions, says Subramanian Swamy

It’s contempt of court: Jayalalithaa counsel

NEERI clearance came before tsunami: Dandi Swami

New Delhi: The Centre is likely to spell out on Wednesday its stand on the Supreme Court’s suggestion that it explore the possibility of finding an alternative alignment or any other route for the Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project without damaging Ramar Sethu and that it consider whether an archaeological study could be conducted to declare Ramar Sethu a national monument.

Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, heading a three-judge Bench, on May 8 asked senior counsel Fali Nariman, appearing for the Centre, to consider an alternative alignment. The suggestion came at the fag end of arguments on behalf of the petitioners. The Bench included Justices R. V. Raveendran and J. M. Panchal. When arguments resumed On Tuesday, Roxna Swamy, wife of Janata Party president and petitioner Subramanian Swamy, said the Centre had not complied with the direction to consider an alternative alignment. Nor was the direction, given by the Madras High Court (before the petitions were shifted to the Supreme Court), that an archaeological study be conducted implemented.

Senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa, said the Centre, not implementing the directions, committed contempt of court. The hearing should not proceed without its complying with the directions. Pointing out that the trust motion was being taken up in Parliament on Tuesday, he wanted the matter adjourned by three weeks. “I am surprised at the Centre’s action in a matter which affects millions of people and the whole nation. The Centre cannot ask for vacating the stay [on demolition of Ramar Sethu] without complying with the directions.”

Justice Balakrishnan told counsel: “I am aware of the oral directions. But how are we concerned with the trust motion? This court is concerned only with a judicial review of an administrative action. We are not concerned with what is happening outside. So many things are happening in this country but we are concerned only with this case.”

Senior counsel M. N. Krishnamani and C.S. Vaidyanathan joined Mr. Venugopal in urging the Centre to give its stand. Justice Raveendran said, “It is an oral direction. If it had been possible, they [Centre] would have said it. They are not positive about it.” After the Bench refused to adjourn the hearing, Krishnan Venugopal, counsel for another petitioner, Dandi Swami, continued his submissions. He said the clearance for the project had been obtained through the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, a Central government agency before the tsunami struck in December 2004. He said that according to experts on tsunami, geomorphologists and mineralogists, implementation of the project would have a disastrous effect on ecology and the environment.

Further arguments will continue on Wednesday.

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