LET GOVT DECIDE STATUS OF RAM SETU, SAYS SUPREME COURT

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The Supreme Court took strong exception to former TN chief minister J Jayalalithaa's petition seeking declaration of Ram Setu as a national monument. "The government is the appropriate authority to decide whether to declare it as a national monument or not," said a bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, Justice Tarun Chatterjee and Justice R V Raveendran.

The CJI, speaking on behalf of the bench, asked the AIADMK chief's counsel whether any representation was made to the appropriate authority on the subject. Ms Jayalalithaa had sought direction to Centre to declare Ram Setu as a national monument and take over, preserve and maintain the same as it is revered by millions.

"Nobody had ever seen the structure. Nobody had ever thought of declaring it as a national monument. It (petition) is coming from her is surprising," court said.

Senior Counsel KK Venugopal, appearing for the petitioner, then sought permission of the court to amend the prayer which was granted. He, however, pressed for another prayer of the petition, seeking direction of the SC to prevent the Centre from destroying/damaging in any manner the Ram Setu during the execution of the project.

Nothing that similar petitions were pending before it, the court tagged her petition along with others. But it also took exception to the fact that the petition was filed after three years of the clearance of the project. "The project was cleared in 2005. The petition is filed after three years," said Justice Raveendran.

Ms. Jayalalithaa had said in her petition that "leaving aside the mythological dimensions and the sentimental value of the structure to millions in India and other South East Asian countries, the structure is worthy of protection purely from historical and archaeological standpoints. By reason of its age and its historical and cultural importance, Rama's Bridge is indeed an ancient monument within the meaning of Sect 2 (a) of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958".

Article 49 of the Constitution provides that it shall be the obligation of the state to protect every monument or place of artistic or historic interest declared by a Parliamentary law to be of national importance from destruction, she said. Ms Jayalalithaa further said Ram Setu is of extraordinary significance from every perspective, and hence requires to be protected irrespective of the debate as to whether it is man-made or natural. The damage to Ram Setu would result in many security concerns. It may be elaborated that in this regard that India and Sri Lanka have always treated Palk Bay, Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait as historic. If the alignment of the channel runs very close to the international waters causing damage to Ram Setu, India would be giving up its claim to the waters. 

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