Wednesday, April 30, 2008

SC on April 30, 2008: how Nariman tried to get the stay vacated

Court hearing today in Sethu case
J. Venkatesan (The Hindu, April 30, 2008)
The Centre is pleading for vacating the stay on dredging
Swamy has filed two petitions — one to implead Baalu and another to invalidate the project
Matter affects the faith of 800 million people; hence disallow project, says K.K. Venugopal
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday adjourned to Thursday hearing on a batch of petitions challenging the Sethusamudram Channel Project on the ground that implementing the project further would damage the Ramar Sethu/Adam’s bridge.
Acting on an application from Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, the court on August 31, 2007 passed an interim order restraining the Centre from causing any damage to the Ramar Sethu.
A three-Judge Bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice J.M. Panchal agreed to hear the petitions on Thursday after Dr. Swamy and counsel for other petitioners submitted that though the matter had been listed for hearing on Wednesday, there was some confusion as the order passed on April 28 mistakenly showed that the matter would be heard on May 1.
Allow project: Nariman
Appearing for the Centre, senior counsel Fali Nariman and Additional Solicitor General R. Mohan submitted that the application seeking a direction to vacate the interim order could be taken up first. Mr. Nariman said that the August 31, 2007 order should be modified and the project be allowed to go on.
Senior counsel K.K. Venugopal pointed out that the petitions had been listed for final disposal and hence the entire matter should be taken up for hearing. This was a matter of such importance that it should be heard by a five-judge Constitution Bench. He said: “This is a matter which affects 800 million people’s faith. People believe that the Ramar Sethu is something which is built by gods. If the project is allowed to be continued and the Ramar Sethu is destroyed, the petitions would become infructuous.”
Dr. Swamy submitted that the Centre had admitted that the Ramar Sethu was a place of worship and it was going to construct a gallery to enable people to offer worship. He said he had filed two applications, one to implead Union Shipping Minister T.R. Baalu and another seeking a direction to invalidate the project and these should be heard. The CJI said it would be listed for Thursday.
Why the hurry?
Senior counsel Soli Sorabjee, Rajeev Dhavan, M.N. Krishnamani and C.S. Vaidyanathan joined Mr. Venugopal and said the structure should not be allowed to be destroyed. If the government had waited for over 150 years to implement the project, there was no great urgency in taking up the project.

SC to hear arguments on Sethusamudram project
New Delhi (PTI): The Centre's anxiety to push through the controversial Sethusamudram Shipping Canal project was apparently visible on Wednesday when it urged the Supreme Court to hear its plea for vacating the interim order on "Rama Setu" within a restricted time-frame.
"The arguments on vacating the interim order should be completed within a restricted time-frame," said senior advocate Fali S Nariman, who has been roped in by the Centre to argue its case.
However, Janata Party president Subramanium Swamy and others opposing the project contested the Centre's plea saying that it cannot be heard within a restricted time-limit of one or two days as the issue involved was of national importance and linked to religious faith of 800 million people.
The matter which was fixed for arguments on Wednesday could not be proceeded with and was posted for hearing on Thursday as lawyers appearing in the case brought to the notice of the court that there was some confusion as the order mistakenly showed that the matter will be heard on May one.
At the outset, Nariman expressed the urgency for hearing the Centre's application seeking vacation and modification of the August 31, 2001 interim order which had allowed the dredging activity for the project to continue to the extent that it did not in anyway cause any damage to the "Rama Setu."
The interim order was continued when on September 14, the Centre promised to review the project after withdrawing its two controversial affidavits questioning the existence of Lord Rama and a man-made bridge "Ram Setu" or Adams Bridge.

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