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Court to await panel report on alternative alignment

J. Venkatesan

Verdict reserved on plea against demolition of Ramar Sethu

New Delhi: Even as the Centre announced the appointment of an experts committee to consider an alternative route for the Sethusamudram project, the Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved verdict on the petitions challenging its implementation by demolishing Adam’s Bridge (Ramar Sethu).

Soon after Fali Nariman, senior counsel appearing for the Centre, told a three-judge Bench about the setting up of the committee, Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan said the judgment would be pronounced after the panel submitted its report. While asking the parties to file their submissions in two weeks, he said the matter would be listed after the report was presented.

Earlier, in his reply, senior counsel K. Parasaran, appearing for one of the petitioners, disputed Mr. Nariman’s argument that according to Kamba Ramayanam Lord Ram himself had destroyed Ramar Sethu.

He said the poem referred to by Mr. Nariman and Additional-Solicitor General R. Mohan, in the court on Tuesday, was not in the original text and was a later interpolation. It formed part of ‘Migai Padalgal’ (excess stanzas), whose existence many commentators doubted.

Justice R.V. Raveendran intervened and said: “We are not here to decide which is original and which is an interpolation. What Mr. Nariman was trying to explain was that even according to a version in Kamba Ramayanam, Lord Ram had destroyed Ramar Sethu. How can we go into all these things?”

Mr. Parasaran said, “The excess stanza does not fit into the context.” Referring to the argument that “Ramar Sethu has been cut into three parts by Lord Ram with his bow,” he said “Ramar Sethu is still considered holy. It does not cease to be holy merely because it has been broken. Feelings of believers of Ramar Sethu will be hurt and injured if it is touched. A large section of people feels that it is holy and merely by looking at it people’s sins are washed off. It should be protected.”

In his reply, Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, one of the petitioners, reiterated that the project should be scrapped altogether if the government could not proceed further without destroying Ramar Sethu. It was not economically viable as was pointed out by the Planning Commission. He said the Centre not complying with the court directions to find out whether Ramar Sethu was an ancient monument or not would result in an adverse inference.

Dr. Swamy pointed out that the Centre wrote to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation, urging that the Majuli Island in Assam be declared an ancient monument. Similarly the Brahmasarovar in Punjab was declared a national monument as people believed that Lord Brahma had a bath here. “What is held to be sacred by a large number of people of this country must remain sacred and no sacrilege must be allowed by destroying Ramar Sethu.”

Senior counsel K.K. Venugopal and M.N. Krishnamani, appearing for petitioners, maintained that the faith of millions of people that Ramar Sethu was built by Lord Ram could not be questioned and the court could not sit in judgment on the belief.

On August 31 last, the court, acting on Dr. Swamy’s application, passed an interim order restraining the Centre from causing any damage to Ramar Sethu in carrying out the project. Among the other petitioners are AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa and the Dandi Swami, Sri Vidyananada Bharati.

On Wednesday, the Bench, which included Justice J.M. Panchal, reserved verdict at the end of marathon arguments that began on May 1 this year.

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