Contrary to its aggressive stance on the Sethusamudram shipping canal project, the Centre on Thursday appeared mellowed down before the Supreme Court.
A day after putting a question mark over the existence of Ram Setu, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-led Government’s counsel, senior advocate Fali S. Nariman told the three-judge bench that he had communicated the court’s suggestion to consider another alignment for the project.
Even as Nariman later argued that court was not within its jurisdiction to entertain public interest litigations against the project, the eminent jurist said: “As a special officer in this case I have taken up the matter with the senior officials of the ministry. I hope to get back to the court on its suggestion.”
In his latest submission Nariman claimed the court was not empowered to examine a policy decision, which was the executive’s role. Taking his arguments in the case ahead Nariman cited apex court judgment on Sardar Sarovar and Narmada projects. “Courts cannot entertain PIL against such projects.” According to him courts could not substitute their decision on the assessment made by experts and could not sit over scientific alliances.
Nariman further added that policy decision could not under court’s scrutiny if they were faulty such as there was a diversion from the guidelines prescribed in the notification. “Courts cannot adjudicate on a policy decision,” he said. In case of a challenge it has to be before the execution of the project, the senior advocate told the court.
Nariman said the government was so careful before giving a nod to the project that it got its environmental clearance even though it wasn’t mandatory. To the court’s query on why a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) wasn’t done, Nariman claimed it was not compulsory. Yet, he said, the government had got a rapid EIA done.