The Central Government on January 19 told the Supreme Court that the process to declare ‘Ram Setu’ as a national heritage monument is currently underway in the Ministry of Culture.
A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala allowed senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, seeking direction to the Government to declare ‘Ram Setu’ as a national monument, to file representation to the Ministry on the issue.
The Apex Court said the Ministry will inform the court about the decision taken by the Centre.
The order of the Apex Court came after Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta told the bench that the process is currently underway in the Ministry of Culture. He said that Subramanian Swamy may submit additional communication if he may so wish.
When the CJI DY Chandrachud said that Swamy can meet the concerned person, he said, “I do not want to meet anybody if they do not want to. We are in the same party; it was there in our manifesto. Let them decide in six weeks or four weeks…”
The bench then disposed of the plea and granted liberty to Swamy to approach the top court if he is aggrieved by the decision of the Ministry.
Initially, the bench told Swamy, “Ordinarily, we would ask them to examine it in the first step. If they examine it and pass an extraneous order, it is subject to judicial review, if you want a particular monument/place to be declared a national monument. So, what we could do is we can record that you will make an application to the concerned authority and we will record the SG’s statement that they will take a decision on that application”.
However, BJP leader Swamy said, “May I request the SG to look at the records? At the end of 2019, the minister…called a meeting of all the officials of all connected departments and asked me to be present. And the whole matter was gone through, and files prepared, Prahlad Patel was well known to me.
Of course, he is the same party. He told me that he has made the recommendation and the files have gone to the Prime Minister. And the next thing we heard is Prahlad Patel was transferred…The matter was thoroughly gone into. All that is happening is what Your Lordship observed in the very beginning ‘why are you dragging your feet’. The question is yes or no”.
To which Tushar Mehta responded “some process is going on”. “If what my learned friend says is true, and I have no reason to not believe him, that also will be a part of the process,” he said.
Though Tushar Mehta said Swamy could make an application to the government if he so desires, the BJP leader responded that he had already made several applications. “No, why should I make… I made many applications. I have made an application to the court. The court gave the order,” Mehta said.
Swamy said the government should fix a time and decide the matter. He also asked if the Centre could designate the minister to meet him and said “they have not replied to any of my letters recently”. Mehta, however, said the applicant should be allowed to be at liberty to meet anyone who he thinks appropriate instead of the government designating someone.
Swamy had earlier said that the case has been pending for eight years but the government has not been able to respond to the plea.
In his plea, Swamy had urged the apex court to pass an order and direct the “Union of India along with National Monuments Authority (NMA) to declare Ram Setu as an Ancient Monument of National Importance.”
He had also urged the top court to pass an order and direct the “Union of India to engage the Geological Survey of India and Archeological Survey of India to conduct a detailed survey with respect to Ram Setu as an Ancient Monument of National Importance.”
Subramanian Swamy said that he has already won the first round of the litigation in which the Centre accepted the existence of ‘Ram Setu’ and added that the union minister concerned had called a meeting in 2017 to consider his demand to declare the Setu as a national heritage monument but subsequently nothing happened.
Ram Setu is a chain of limestone shoals between Pamban Island, Rameswaram Island, off the south-eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, and Mannar Island, off the north-western coast of Sri Lanka.
Swamy said he will come back to the court if the Centre does not take a decision in a fixed time.