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Scrap unviable Sethu project: T.N. (Jan.14)


Hindu, Delhi, Wednesday 8th January 2014

After Mohan Parasaran, Rajeev Dhavan recuses himself from case

The Tamil Nadu government has reiterated the Supreme Court should direct the Centre not to implement the Sethusamudram project, given that the Gulf of Mannar and surrounding areas are extremely eco-fragile, and the economic values of the project are questionable.

On Tuesday, Additional Solicitor-General Paras Kuhad mentioned the matter before a Bench of Justices H.L. Dattu and S.A. Bobde. He said senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who was to represent the Centre, had recused himself, and in future he [Mr. Kuhad] would appear for it. He sought three weeks’ time to spell out the Centre’s stand.

The Bench accordingly posted the matter for further hearing after three weeks.

At the last hearing, Mr. Dhavan replaced Mohan Parasaran when the Solicitor-General expressed his inability to argue the case for the Centre because his father and former Attorney-General, K. Parasaran, had appeared for some of the petitioners opposing the project. Now, Mr. Dhavan has also recused himself, saying he was not given the relevant papers and applications.

In its response to the Centre’s affidavit that it wanted to implement the project in the original alignment that cuts through Ram Setu, Tamil Nadu said ecological threats would be irreversible and could not be assessed in monetary terms. The Centre had made it clear that it did not accept the recommendations of an expert committee, headed by Rajendra K. Pachauri, that it was unlikely that the public interest would be served if the project was implemented as per alignment No. 4A (a route suggested by the court as an alternative to the original alignment No. 6 which will cut through Ram  Setu.)

The State said: “Adam’s Bridge/Ram Setu fulfils the cultural and natural criteria fixed by UNESCO, and hence implementation of the project will be a potential threat to this world renowned and unique structure.” Since the Pachauri Committee had rightly concluded that the project was unviable, its report should be accepted and the project scrapped, it said. It also wanted Adam’s Bridge/Ram Setu declared a national monument to forbear the Centre from carrying out any activity which might affect it.

In his application, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said that in his petitions transferred to the Supreme Court from the Madras High Court, he had sought directives under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, for the preservation, protection and maintenance of one of India’s oldest and best known ancient monuments, Ram Setu, revered by millions. The  Ministry of Culture and Tourism was directed to file a counter-affidavit explaining whether any study had been undertaken by the archaeological or any other department and whether the bridge could be regarded as a national monument under the 1958 Act. Though he had been reminding the Centre of the need for it to file a response, it did not do so.