Rama Setu as national monument: Govt. of India directed by Madras HC to respond to the plea (19 June 2006)
While waiting for the written order of the Madras High Court passed on 19 June 2007 some highlights can be reported.
The hearings took place both on 18th and 19th on four petitions: two petitions of Dr. Subramanian Swamy, one petition of Rama Gopalan and one impleading petition of Dr. S. Kalyanaraman.
A very wide range of issues related to the Sethusamudram channel and Rama Setu were considered in impressive court interventions and presentations by Dr. Swamy and Shri D. Sethuraman, Shri TV Ramanujam, Shri TV Krishnamachari Advocates.
The order passed by the court will constitute a landmark judgement in Indian jurisprudence. The order is a veritable direction for the imperative of determining an ancient monument of national importance under the 1958 Act in the context of the constitutional duty of every citizen and the responsibility of the state to protect such monuments. The order directed the Govt. of India and Director of Archaeological Survey of India to file their response in 4 weeks to the details provided by petitioners on the issue of Rama Setu as a national monument and to specify why other alignments which would not damage Rama Setu can be considered to protect the monument. (Court noted that no reasons in project reports, were adduced as to why other alignments were not evaluated so as not to damage Rama Setu – a specific injunction which was recorded by A Ramaswamy Mudaliar Committee Report of 1956). Many details of evidences related to Rama Setu or Adam’s Bridge were also cited in the Court order.
The case was posted for the next hearing on July 23, 2007.
Here are some news reports which provide the usual skewed p-sec media perspective, together with a background on issues deliberated.
Madras HC declines to stay Sethu Samudram canal project
Chennai, June 19 (PTI): Declining to stay ongoing works on the Sethu Samudram Canal Project, the Madras High Court today asked the Centre to explain whether the project could be implemented without affecting the Rama Sethu bridge by resorting to some other alignment.
Refusing to grant any interim order on the petition filed by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy,seeking to protect the Rama Sethu bridge, Chief Justice A P Shah and Justice P Jyothimani asked the Centre to file a counter in four weeks to explain whether any study had been undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India or any other departments in respect to the Rama Sethu bridge.
The court also said that the Centre should ascertain whether the bridge had been regarded as a national monument under the Ancient Monuments Protection Act.
NEERI, which undertook a study on the possible impact of the project, had furnished reasons for selecting the present alignment, they said, adding that no discussions were reported as to whether any other route was possible in order to avoid cutting of the bridge.
“It is the contention of the government that the Rama Sethu bridge was not man made, but a natural formation of shoals. But from the definition in the Ancient Monument Protection Act, it is apparent that a national monument has a wide meaning including stone and rivers”, the Chief Justice said.
“We are not inclined to grant any interim relief at this stage so as to hamper the project work. We leave it to the Union government to decide whether the bridge can be postponed”, they said and posted the matter for hearing on July 23.
Ram Sethu man-made, says Madras HC
The plan envisages dredging a 44.9 nautical mile (83 km) long deepwater channel in the shallow sea to provide a continuous navigable sea route around the Indian Peninsula.
On May 16, the Lok Sabha was adjourned after Bharatiya Janata Party MPs raised a furore over the construction of the project.
The BJP and the Vishva Hindu Parishad are demanding that the project be scrapped, as it would destroy the mythological bridge built by Lord Rama of Ayodhya.
The project was conceived as early as 1860 by Alfred Dundas Taylor. It recently received the approval of the Centre.
Incidentally, environmentalists have also opposed the project, saying navigation in the shallow waters will irreversibly damage the region’s flora and fauna.
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT MADRAS
(Special Original Jurisdiction)
M.P. NO. OF 2007
W.P. NO.18076 OF 2007
Mr. S. KALYANARAMAN,
PETITIONER / PROPOSED PARTY
1. Mr. RAMA GOPALAN,
No.59, Iyya Mudali Street,
Chintadripet, Chennai – 600 002
2. UNION OF INDIA,
Through the Secretary,
Department of Shipping,
Ministry of Shipping, Survey, Transport and Highways,
Transport Bhavan, Sansad Marg, New Delhi – 110 001.
3. THE CHAIRMAN AND MANAGING DIRECTOR,
Sethu Samudram Corporation Limited,
A Corporation set up by the Government of India,
4. THE SECRETARY,
Department of Culture,
Ministry of Tourism & Culture,
Government of India, New Delhi .
5. DIRECTOR GENERAL, ARCHEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF INDIA,
Janpat, New Delhi – 110 001
6. THIRU T.R. BAALU,
Hon’ble Minister for Shipping,
Minister for Shipping, Surface Transport and Highways,
Government of India, Transport Bhavan,
Sansad Marg, New Delhi – 110 001
Excerpts from AFFIDAVIT OF Dr. S. KALYANARAMAN
3) As a person having keen interest in research, I have done extensive research on the subject “Sethusamudram Project” and hence aware of the full facts of the case. I respectively submit that the chosen alignment for a channel passage through Rama Setu, which is deemed as an ancient monument / archaeological site / remains / relics of historical, archaeological and of natural importance, should be avoided for reasons which are set out herein.
i) The course chosen namely the Alignment 6, ignores the warnings issued by Sir A. Ramasamy Mudaliar committee and the warnings given by the said committee continue to be valid even today.
ii) The chosen alignment also puts at risk the entire coastline of Southern Tamilnadu and Kerala since the channel will have the tendency to function like a funnel absorbing the energy of another Tsunami. (It is respectfully submitted that if proposed alignment is allowed to proceed, the impact of any Tsunami will have devasting effect similar to the one that devasted Alberni Port in Alberni canal of Canada during an Alaskan Tsunami of 1964)
iii) It is submitted that during the Tsunami, of December 26 2004, Rama Setu acted as Tsunami protection wall and prevented the devastation of south coastline.
iv) Rama Setu also functions as a sieve to accumulate thorium reserves as placer deposits, a unique reserve to sustain the nation’s nuclear programme. The reserves have the potential to meet the electricity needs of our country for the next 350 years. The impact of damaging “Rama Setu” on the accumulation of placer deposits should be carefully evaluated before embarking upon any project. If the deposits are lost from the coast line into the depths of the Indian Ocean, by the next Tsunami, they will become virtually impossible to retrieve to sustain the country’s nuclear programme.
v) In addition to the above I respectfully submit that Rama Setu is from time immemorial had been the boundary of our nation. The logo of survey of India amply demonstrates the said facts which states “Aasethu Himachalam” (From Setu to Himalayas) as defining boundary of our nation. Besides that there are wealth of materials in Tamil, Hindi and English Literatures about the existence of “Rama Setu”.
4) I state that Rama Setu (Rama’s Bridge or Ramar Palam in Tamil) is not a myth but a reality. In fact there are references in the records of British Colonial Regime about Ram Setu. However, due to frequent ingress and regression, the Bridge is presently sub merged at a shallow depth ranging between 4 to 10 Feet between Dhanushkodi ( India) and Thalaimannar (Srilanka). It is pertinent to mention that Dhanushkodi tip was submerged during cyclone which struck in 1948 and again in 1964.
5) I respectfully submit that contention of the respondent that Rama Setu is sand shoals created by nature is not correct and is misleading. The Geophysical, Geo – Tectonic and Geo – Thermal evidences point to the fact that Ramar Setu is a very ancient structure composed of multiple layers of soil types and not merely sand shoals, but also coral rocks, sand stone boulders which indicate that there was human activity on the bridge.
6) I submit that as per the report of Department of Earth Sciences, the coral rocks which form a layer of the bridge (according to the test drillings) are not indigenous to the said area and should have been transported from the coast line.
7) I respectfully submit that the respondent has not provided any evidence to show that Rama Setu is a natural formation and there was no human activity. It is submitted that Rama Setu was a land – bridge between India and Sri Lanka for many thousands of years until 1480 when cyclone caused breaches. Even after 1480, until 1799 it was used as a bridge for travel between India and Srilanka and is proved by the evidence provided from Asiactic Society Research and British Travelogues.
8) It is submitted that on Srilanka side there is a Siva Temple called Thiruketeeswaram just as there is Siva Temple in Rameswaram on Indian Side. Ancient texts refer to the third Siva Linga installed by Sri Rama on middle of Setu. This is required to be discovered by Marine Archaeological Investigation.
9) It is respectfully submitted that notwithstanding the contention of the Respondent that Rama Setu is not a man made bridge, the fact remains it is recognised as a Sacred Theertham in Hindu Tradition. I submit that the Hindu Sentiments have to be respected. The argument about the spiritual significance of the site is no less compelling. It is incorrect to argue that there is little scientific evidence to prove that Adam’s Bridge is manmade. For, within each religious or spiritual tradition are matters purely of belief for which no rational explanations or scientific proofs are available. Thus Christians believe in the Immaculate Conception, the Jews that the Red Sea parted for Moses, and Muslims that Islam was revealed to the Prophet through the divine agency of Angel Gabriel. The Hindu belief that Rama with the help of vanara sena built a bridge to Lanka. The question as to whether it is man made or otherwise of the event has little relevance. It is a matter of faith and belief based on oral narratives rather than written records. It may be one of the reasons why Section 2 (d) of The Ancient Monuments and Arachaeological Sites and Remains Act 1954 envisage that “archaeological site and remains” means any area which contains or reasonably believed to contain and it does not stipulate either it should be man made or backed up by records. Therefore it is not required that it should be proved by the Writ petitioner that it is man made or not. It cannot be disputed by the contesting respondents that the Hindus believe in existence of Rama Setu.
10) I respectfully submit as per Article 51 of the Constitution of India it is citizen’s duty to protect cultural traditions and heritage. There is no gainsaying that citizen’s duty is also the responsibility of the state. It is also pertinent to point out that as per section 2 (d) of the Ancient monuments and archaeological sites and Remain Act 1956, Archaeological site and remains means any area which contains or is reasonably believed to contain remains or relics or historical or archaeological importance which have been in existence for not less than one hundred years. It is needless to point out that the Ramar Setu is reasonably believed to contain ruins or relics of historical or archaeological importance, if not from the days of Rama but at least during the days of regional kings of South India.
11) I respectfully submit that the averment of the Respondent that economic benefit from implementing the project is not correct. I state that the British Government would have implemented had there been adequate reasons as in the case of Suez and Panama Canals which were created as land-based protected and controlled structures with locks on either side. I submit that a canal through guff does not make any sense; it only becomes an uncontrollable channel passage in the mid-ocean. I further submit that territorial waters is being internationalised and international water boundary is sought to be created by this Channel Passage were no such boundary existed before. As a result of which there will be devastating impact on the lives of coastal people of both India and Sri Lanka impairing their free access to ocean resources.
12) I submit that it is rather surprising that Geological Survey of India ( G.S.I.) has not been involved with the project design. G.S.I. has invariably been a participant in such large scale riverine or marine projects. The non-availing of scientific and technological expertise of G.S.I. points to the haste and arbitrariness with which the project is sought to be pushed through. I submit that the respondent has not even obtained wild life act clearance. I state that the respondent has not analysed the impact of the Tsunami in proper perspective. I state that the project now adopted will create an unstable channel passage across deep canyon which ranges from depth of 3,000 meters to 1 meter within a short span of 75 kilometers will be rendered further unstable due to oceanographic, geo-thermal and tectonic conditions and recurrence of cyclones and Tsunamis. it will be impossible and economically unviable to maintain this channel and maintain the draught of 10 meters because of erosions and mud slides and sediments which is an ongoing feature given the currents and counter currents unique to the tip of the Indian Plate.
13) I respectfully submit that alignment 4 as a land-based canal through Dhanushkodi (15 kms. sand shoals) submitted by the Steering Committee following Dr. A. Ramasamy Mudaliar Committee’s warnings, is the best one, economically viable and will not impact on the lives of coastal people or the sentiments of crores of Hindus. The Respondent does not explain why the alignment 4 had been abandoned by choosing alignment 6 which was recommended to be abandoned by Dr. A. Ramasamy Mudaliar Committee.
14) I state that the mere fact that Rama Setu or Adam’s Bridge has not been declared as a protected monument of national importance would in any manner affect the status of monumental or religious importance of Rama Setu. It is pertinent to mention that Brahma Sarovar in Kurukshetra, it was not declared as monument of national importance whereas the Punjab and Hariyana High Court deemed it as a monument in view of the sacredness associated with pilgrimage structure. I submit similar is the situation regarding Rama Setu.
15) I submit that the entire region including Rama Setu is a marine and land based Archaeological, Cultural Complex with Extraordinary spiritual significance and not a mere place of tourist attraction.
16) I submit that it is shocking that NEERI did not include a detailed evolution of Archaeological and Cultural aspects of the Rama Setu in its Assessment of Environment Aspects.
17) I respectfully submit that as a person who has done extensive research on the project, I am interested in protecting the cultural and religious heritage of our country. Therefore, I should be impleaded as a necessary party respondent in the above Writ Petition and Miscellaneous Petition to enable me to put forward and bring to the notice of this court, the legal and scientific basis for not implementing of the project in the present form using alignment 6. I submit that I shall be in a position to assist the court with all details I collected to enable the court to arrive at just decision.
18) I further submit that recently the minister for Science and Technology Mr. Kapil Sibal had informed that there is an open offer that Government will provide samples collected from the area to persons wanting to carry out tests independently. In such an event, when the Government is open and not averse to any scientific opinion on the issue, the respondent cannot have any objections for subjecting “Rama Setu” to the opinion of a expert body consisting of experts from Geographical Survey of India and Archaeological Survey of India (which is a party to the proceedings) to conduct a research and submit a report to this Honourable Court about the various issues raised in the Writ Petition. Till such time the respondents can be restrained from carrying on with the dredging work at “Rama Setu”.
In view of the above it is prayed that this Hon’ble Court may be pleased to implead the petitioner as Respondent No.7 in the above Writ Petition and the connected Miscellaneous Petition and thus render Justice.
Solemnly affirmed at Chennai on this
the day of JUNE 2007 and
signed his name in my presence.
Today’s Parasurama for the cause of Rama Setu
More than 800 million Hindus in India and several millions of Hindus abroad are delighted by the following observation of the Madras High Court, while dealing with the two writ petitions filed by Dr Subramanian Swami, President Janata Party and Shri Ram Gopal, President of Hindu Munnani seeking Interim Injunction against the destruction of the Ram Setu Bridge: �Be it man- made or natural, the Ramar Setu should not be touched�. I had requested two very senior lawyers with established legal practice and reputation for several decades to watch the High Court proceedings yesterday relating to the petition filed by Dr. Subramanian Swami. Based upon their brilliant summary of rapier-like legal arguments and points presented by Dr Subramanian Swami, I would like to present below the main thrust of Dr Swami’s arguments by way of information in order to give immediate emotional solace to the shattered and battered Hindus of India who have tragically become stateless refugees in their own mother-land.
Dr Subramanian Swami’s arguments for the grant of an Interim Injunction (WP 18223-4) by the Madras High Court on 18 June, 2007 were as follows:
1. The main purpose in seeking an injunction is to preserve during it’s pendency in the Honourable Madras High Court the subject matter of this Petition, namely the protection of the Rama Setu which is threatened by the clear and present danger of demolition by Setusamudram Canal Project Corporation (Respondent No5 .), which is the nodal agency for dredging [AIR 1983 Delhi 312, AIR 1971 Raj.293, AIR 1973 Mysore 799, and 1984 TNLJ 218].
2. As of 13 June, 2007, the Sethusamudram Canal Project Corporation [sethusamudram.gov. in/projectstatus.asp] has claimed that dredging work has been carried out to excavate 8.96 percent of the Rama Setu. See also Counter p.7, para 11. THERE MAY BE MALAFIDE INTENTION BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT IS LED BY ATHEISTS WHO REVEL IN DEMEANING SRI RAMA. They call the Setu as built by Sri Rama as mythical [p.5, para 8 of Counter]. So was Sarasvati River and Dwaraka city at one stage. After extensive archaeological surveys, it has been scientifically and categorically proved that they physically exist on Mother Earth. Likewise, Ram Setu is a physical fact which can be discovered through an organized underwater archaeological survey and exploration. Without undertaking such a survey, if it is viewed as mythical and fit for demolition, then why is it that the Setusamudram Canal Project Corporation is planning to construct a viewing gallery as a part of the SSCP [please see page 20 of the Counter]. The Supreme Court of India in several judgements have held that even mythical objects may be ancient monuments or sacred [AIR 1958 SC 1032 at para 7, p.1035 & AIR 1993 P&H 204 at paras 7, 8, 9, and 10]
Hence, it is alarming and lack of injunction will cause irreparable and irretrievable damage to the relief sought in this petition.
3. It is well settled by a catena of judgments of the Supreme Court and High Courts[ AIR Manual, Civil and Criminal, 6th Edition by Manohar &Chitaley, 2004]that the essential ingredients for invoking the discretion of this Honourable Court to grant an Interim Injunction against the dredging work on or near the Rama Setu are primarily THREE:
[A] The existence of a prima facie case of the petitioner.
[B] The necessacity of the High Court’s interference to protect the petitioner from irreparable injury to his legal right, in this case the protection of the Rama Setu, for which a clear and present imminent danger is apparent.
[C] The balance of convenience is weighted in favour of the petitioner.
4. These two Writ petitions in the nature of public interest litigation was heard on 14 May, 2007 by the Vacation Court Division Bench, and after arguments for establishing the prima facie case on behalf of Dr Subramanian Swami the petitioner, on grounds of arbitrariness, unreasonableness, and bias in the decision making process that called for judicial review[(2004) 4 SCC 714 para 24, 28, 30; AIR 1996 SC 11 at para 93, 94, 95, 113], besides the failure to perform the statutory duty calling for issue of writ of mandamus[ AIR 1988 SC 1037, Praga [Tools], and after hearing the respondents, the Honourable Court was pleased admit the said writ petitions and to issue notice two weeks returnable to the respondents/ counsels present, who accepted the said notice.
5. Hence, there is a good probability for the petitioner of being entitled to the relief prayed for in this petition.
6. Satellite imaging photography of the US agency, the NASA, and the Indian ISRO have admittedly shown the existence of a 32 kilometer long and 1.5 kilometer wide Setu-like or causeway-like formation of shoal stones between Dhanushkodi and Talaimanaar, and moreover that the Union Government’s Earth Science Department has opined in March 2007 that it is a construction and not a natural formation which document [see Typeset] has not been denied by the respondents. Dr. Subramanian Swami sought the specific direction and permission of the Madras High Court to discover official records of these documents under Order 39 Rule 1[(1998) 2 Raj. LR 120]
7. Hence, it is imperative that the Ministry of Culture perform it’s statutory duty and ascertain if the said formation is an ancient monument within the meaning of the Ancient Monument and Archeological Sites Act for which this petitioner has written to the Minister of Culture. THIS DUTY HOWEVER THE MINISTRY HAS FAILED TO PERFORM TO DATE, AND HENCE A WRIT OF MANDAMUS IS CALLED FOR [PRAGA TOOLS].
8. It is an urgent necessacity for this Honourable Court to take cognizance of the attempts of the Sethusamudram Canal Projection Corporation in dredging at the Rama Setu, when they have yet to dredge 167 kilometers of the proposed canal on either side of the Rama Setu. There will be no inconvenience for the Corporation to first dredge the canal length on either side of the canal, which will take two years from today, before coming to the Rama Setu site for dredging.
By then it is probable that this petition would have been decided by the Honourable Madras High Court. Hence the balance of convenience lies in favour of granting an injunction restraining for the time being, the Corporation from damaging the Rama Setu [AIR 1983 SC 742]. Immediate grant of an Interim Injunction will safeguard the ever-permanent public interest without in any way jeopardizing the interest of the respondents.
9. The local authorities are also obstructing religious Hindus from going to the Rama Setu to worship because of this dredging work, thus necessacitating under Order 39 Rule 17 the grant of an injunction till this petition is decided.
10. There is no other remedy available to this petitioner other than injunction to prevent the damage to Rama Setu before this petition is decided [AIR1976 SC 2621, AIR 1990 SC 867]. HENCE, THIS HONOURABLE COURT MAY BE PLEASED TO EXERCISE IT’S DISCRETION ON SOUND JUDICIAL PRINCIPLES AND GRANT INTERIM INJUNCTION PROHIBITING THE RESPONDENTS FROM DAMAGING THE RAMA SETU AND TAKING NECESSARY STEPS FOR IT’S PROTECTION.
After seeing the through manner in which Dr. Subramanian Swami presented his case in the Madras High Court yesterday, I am reminded of the following famous story which was narrated by Justice Felix Frankfurter, one of the greatest names in the history of law. To quote the words of this very great Judge: �A colleague of mine at the Harvard Law School with whom I got into a tangle about some question of law once chided me, indeed, closed a contentious argument between us by saying, ‘you take law awfully seriously’.
I said, ‘That is one accusation against which I plead guilty without reservation. I do take law very seriously, deeply seriously, because fragile as reason is and limited as law is as the expression of the institutionalized medium of reason, that is all we have standing between us and the tyranny of mere will and the cruelty of unbridled, undisciplined feeling’�. I have no doubt that Dr Subramanian Swami’s legal work ethic would have met with the full academic and moral approval of Justice Felix Frankfurter.
Thanks to the policy of Anti-Hindu minority appeasement and Pseudo- secularism of the UPA Government in general and the Congress Party and the DMK Party in Particular, the Hindus of India are being denied freedom of thought and freedom of religion, which have been granted to the Muslims / Christians as a special favour. In this context I would like to invite the attention of our Courts of Law to the following observations of Justice William O Douglas in USA: �Freedom of thought, which includes freedom of religious belief, is basic in a society of free men…. It embraces the right to maintain theories of life and of death and of the hereafter which are rank heresy to followers of the orthodox faiths. Heresy trials are foreign to our Constitution. MEN MAY BELIEVE WHAT THEY CANNOT PROVE. THEY MAY NOT BE PUT TO THE PROOF OF THEIR RELIGIOUS DOCTRINES OR BELIEFS.� Rank Anti-Hindu atheists like T R Baalu and Karunanidhi have the political audacity to subject the innocent and simple Hindus of India in majority to such a disgraceful state of dictatorial cross examination.
Dr Subramanian Swami has demonstrated that the profession of law is the only aristocratic element which can be amalgamated without violence with the natural elements of democracy and which can be advantageously and permanently combined with them. The Constitution of India is not a mere politician’s document or a lawyer’s document. It is a vehicle of life and the spirit is always the spirit of the Age.