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Explore alternative alignment: court

Legal Correspondent

This will help avoid controversy over damage to Sethusamudram project, says CJI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre to explore the possibility of an alternative alignment or any other route for the Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project without damaging Ramar Sethu and to 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, asked senior counsel Fali Nariman, appearing for the Centre, to consider an alternative alignment and said that by this the government could avoid the controversy (of damaging Ramar Sethu).

The CJI’s suggestion came at the end of Thursday’s arguments on behalf of the petitioners. He told Mr. Nariman that “Subramanian Swamy and senior counsel C.S. Vaidyanathan had said an alternative alignment was not considered. Further, the direction given by the Madras High Court [before the petitions were shifted to the Supreme Court] that archaeological study must be conducted had not been implemented by the Centre.”

Mr. Nariman said, “after the High Court order, we have filed a comprehensive affidavit.” Justice Raveendran pointed out that the High Court order had not been quashed and the direction continued to remain and the Centre had not answered this. Mr. Nariman said he [the Centre] would consider the court’s suggestion in this regard.

On the petitions filed by Dr. Swamy and Rama Gopalan, the High Court on June 19, 2007 asked the Centre “to file a counter-affidavit explaining whether any study has been undertaken by the archaeological or any other department concerned in respect of Adam’s Bridge/Ramar Sethu and whether the said bridge can be regarded as a national monument. The Union of India should also explain whether the said project can be implemented without affecting Ramar Sethu by resorting to some other routes.” Since no affidavit had been filed on these aspects, the CJI asked the Centre to consider this and posted the matter for further hearing on July 22.

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