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Won’t damage Ram Setu in interest of nation, Centre tells SC

Ram Setu is an underwater coral formation in the Indian Ocean that some believe was built by Hindu god Ram.

india Updated: Mar 16, 2018 22:48 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
New Delhi
Ram Setu,Centre,Supreme Court
A satellite image of the Ram Setu.

After 10 years of prolonged litigation, the Centre informed the Supreme Court on Friday that “in the interest of the nation” it would not damage Ram Setu, an underwater coral formation in the Indian Ocean that some believe was built by Hindu god Ram, and would instead explore an alternative alignment for its Sethusamudram Ship Channel project off the coast of Tamil Nadu.

Additional solicitor general Pinky Anand made the statement before a bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra after BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said the Union ministry of shipping had filed an affidavit to this effect.

In 2007, Swamy filed a petition challenging the then alignment of the project that would damage Ram Setu, following which the court stayed the project on August 31, 2007.

The ministry’s affidavit asked the court to dispose of Swamy’s petition in the wake of its fresh submission. It also reaffirmed its commitment to the project but added that it was abandoning the current alignment on account of “socio-economic disadvantages” it would cause.

The BJP government’s affidavit comes a year ahead of the next Lok Sabha election. In its manifesto for the 2014 election, the BJP had promised to resolve the controversial issue. The Sethusamudram project, undertaken by the UPA, faced stiff resistance from environmentalists and Hindu groups because the proposed alignment in the Palk Strait to facilitate navigation between India’s east and west coasts was to pass through Ram Sethu.

In September 2007, the Archaeological Survey of India submitted a contentious affidavit in the SC, claiming there was no historical or scientific evidence to establish existence of Lord Ram or Ram Setu as a man-made bridge.

Under attack for filing a “blasphemous” affidavit, the UPA government later withdrew it. Thereafter, the Centre took a decision not to file an affidavit. In November last, the top court asked the Centre to take a stand.

First Published: Mar 16, 2018 22:47 IST