Wednesday, August 8, 2007

August 8, 2007 Supreme Court notice to Centre

Supreme Court notice to Centre on PIL plea challenging Sethu project - The Hindu.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Centre on a public interest litigation (PIL) petition challenging the Sethusamudram project and for a direction to preserve Ram Sethu as an ancient monument.

A Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice R.V. Raveendran issued notice after hearing senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the petitioner. Counsel brought to the notice of the court how the environmental issues had been violated in executing the project.

He said the Ministry of Earth Sciences, in its response, had furnished material “which is stated to have been sent by it to the Office of the President of India regarding the project in question; this material, including a report by the National Institute of Ocean Technology, Chennai, indicates that the Ram Sethu is a man made structure, dating back to antiquity. This being so, the Ram Sethu deserves to be declared as an ‘ancient monument’ under the provisions of the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act, 1904; and to be preserved and protected in accordance with the said Act.”

Mr. Venugopal said as on August 7, the project had encroached 20.08 per cent of the Adams Bridge called Ram Sethu and there was a possibility of the bridge being damaged in the dredging operations. He pleaded for maintenance of status quo as otherwise the petition would become infructuous.

Additional Solicitor-General, R. Mohan, strongly opposed passing of ‘status quo’ order as the project would come to a standstill. He said that the apex court had already rejected stay of the project in five petitions and no stay should be granted in this petition also. The Bench while issuing notice asked the Centre to file its response in three weeks and posted all the petitions for hearing together on August 31.

The petitioners Dandi Swami Vidyananda Bharati-ji of Secunderabad and Deeksha Mishra of Gwalior said that the petition raised serious issues pertaining to the implementation of the Sethusamudram project, viz preservation/protection of the Ramar Sethu as an ‘ancient monument’ under the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act, 1904; introduction of alien species into the Gulf of Mannar, in contravention of Article 8 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992, as well as Article 196 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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