Ram Setu cannot be declared national monument: government

July 29th, 2008 - 8:58 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 29 (IANS) Reiterating that the Ram Setu was destroyed by Lord Ram himself, the government Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it is not fit to be declared a national monument. “As far as we are concerned, the stand of the government is very clear: that the Ram Setu could not fulfill the criteria of a national monument,” senior counsel Fali S. Nariman, appearing for the government, told the bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan.

On the issue of the government’s stand on the apex court’s repeated suggestion to consider an alternative alignment to build a shorter navigational sea route around India’s southern tip, Nariman said he was yet to receive any instruction from the government.

Nariman told the court that he might receive the government’s instruction by Wednesday.

The Adam’s Bridge or Ram setu is a 48-km long chain of limestone shoals that once linked Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu with Mannar in Sri Lanka’s northwest. Many Hindus hold belief that it was the bridge Lord Ram’s army built to cross over to Lanka to rescue his wife Sita.

The bridge faces some damage due to the dredging for the ambitious Setusamudram canal project to create a navigable waterway between India’s southern tip and Sri Lanka.

After taking an aggressive stand last Wednesday that Lord Ram himself had destroyed the Ram Setu and a broken Ram Setu cannot be worshipped according to the Hindu faith, Nariman adopted a reconciliatory approach Thursday and told the court that he had conveyed its suggestion for an alternative alignment for the shipping channel to the “highest level” in the government.

Resuming his argument Tuesday, Nariman told the bench, also comprising Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice J.M. Panchal, that Lord Ram himself destroyed the bridge, while returning from Lanka after killing Ravana and rescuing his wife Sita.

Quoting from Kamban Ramayana, a version of the Hindu epic, Nariman said Lord Ram had destroyed the bridge 1.75 million years ago.

Citing a 19th century notification of the British rulers, Nariman added that the Ram Setu had also been damaged in a strong cyclone in 1480, yet it continued to be worshipped by people.

He added that the people would continue to worship it even after the construction of the shipping channel across it, which is merely 30-metre wide, 12-metre deep and 167-km long.

Citing various provisions of the National Monument Act, 1950, Nariman told the bench that even if Ram Setu were a national monument, section 19 of the act empowers the government to destroy a part of it for developmental work.

“This is not something which is impermissible under the law,” said Nariman.

He added that all scientific studies were conducted by the government. These include the impact of natural calamities like tsunamis, cyclones and earthquakes in coastal areas of Tamil Nadu after partial destruction of the Ram Setu to build the sea route.

After Nariman concluded his argument, counsel for various petitioners opposing the construction of the shorter shipping route opened their arguments.

Counsel Sri Ram Panchu for petitioner O. Fernandes contended before the court that while starting Rs.25 billion shipping canal project, the government had not conducted any scientific study to minimise the impact of natural disasters and calamities in southern India.

The petitioners opposing the project will continue their argument Wednesday when former central minister Subramanian Swamy is also likely to argue.

The apex court last year directed the central government not to damage the Ram Setu in any manner while dredging it.

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