In a fresh affidavit filed by the centre in the Supreme Court, the former has said it will not remove Ram Setu, and that the government will explore alternative routes to build the shipping canal project.
The Union Ministry of Shipping, in its affidavit, told a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra that the PIL filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy against the Sethusamudram project can now be disposed off by taking note of its stand.
"That the government of India intends to explore an alternative to the earlier alignment of Sethusamudram Ship Channel project without affecting/damaging the Adam's Bridge/Ram Sethu in the interest of the nation," the affidavit filed by the ministry said.
Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for the Centre, said that the Centre has filed the response in pursuance of the earlier directions and the PIL can now be disposed off.Swamy had filed a PIL against the ship channel project and had sought direction to the Centre that the mythological Ram Sethu be not touched.
The centre told the Apex Court that considering the socio-economic disadvantages of the proposed alignment, the government of India does not want to implement said alignment. The government intends to explore an alternative to the earlier alignment of the Sethusamudram shipping canal project without affecting or damaging Adam's bridge/ Ram Setu, in the interest of the nation.
Ram Setu, between Pamban Island near Rameshwaram in India and Mannar Island off Sri Lanka is 50km long and has been in the centre of a controversy since the UPA-1 government in 2005 proposed the Sethusamudram shipping canal project that would have required dredging the area. The project was opposed by the BJP-led NDA citing the mythological importance of the bridge. It is believed that Ram Setu is the bridge built by Lord Ram with the help of a vanara sena to reach Sri Lanka to rescue his wife Sita from the Rakshasa king, Ravana. The UPA-I government had initially filed an affidavit in Supreme Court saying there was no evidence to prove that Ram Setu was a place of worship. It was later withdrawn.
Recently the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs, which has representatives from key NDA constituents, discussed the future of the Sethusamudram project. The meting was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and was attended by senior ministers part of the committee.
The project, which envisages dredging a channel across the Palk Straits, has hit a wall after protests over religious grounds relating to the proposed demolition of the Ram Sethu. It aims to provide a shorter navigational route from the east and west coasts of India instead of circumventing Sri Lanka.
A claim made recently in a show on an American science channel that the 'Ram Sethu' is man-made and not natural had triggered a fresh debate on the issue.Union minister Smriti Irani has already taken note of the show. Sharing the show’s promo video on Twitter, the minister said, “Jai Sri Ram.”
(Inputs from agencies)