SC slams Karunanidhi Govt as virtual shutdown prevails in Tamil Nadu

New Delhi, Oct. 1 : The Supreme Court on Monday came down heavily on the DMK-led Tamil Nadu Government for virtually ignoring its order on a shutdown call given by the ruling alliance over Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project.

Warning the State Government of initiating contempt of court proceedings, a bench headed by acting Chief Justice B N Aggarwal and Justice P Sathasivam said: “If there is no compliance with our order, it is complete breakdown of Constitutional machinery. We will then have to direct the government to impose President's rule.”

“If necessary, it would not hesitate to summon the Chief Secretary and the Chief Minister,” the court added.

When the counsel of the AIADMK, which had challenged the shutdown call, told the court about the shutdown-like situation in the state, the court said: “You can file a contempt petition."

Hearing a Special Leave Petition filed by opposition AIADMK, the apex court on Sunday stayed a shutdown scheduled for today or any other day by the DMK for early completion of the project.

However, it was a 'virtual bandh' in the state, with Southern Railways operating only skeletal services.

Shops remained closed and buses in several parts of the state were off the roads. The movement of autorickshaws and taxis were seen in the city.

"Is this the government? Is this the Tamil Nadu government? Is it the DMK government, a strong ally of the UPA government? If this is the attitude of the DMK government, the UPA government should not feel shy of dismissing it and impose President's Rule," the court observed.

Criticising the judiciary, leaders of other parties of the Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA), who are also observing the fast, said that that 'the judiciary should stay within its limits.'

"Why would there be appeals or higher benches if every judge was right?" Union shipping minister T R Baalu asked.

Soon after yesterday’s ruling, Chief Minister Karunanidhi decided to go on a daylong fast.

Commenting on the court stay on the shutdown, CPI National Secretary D Raja said that only the Parliament should decide on people's welfare and related issues," which courts should not interfere with."

"The Supreme Court has been giving some strange verdicts on issues like the SSCP, 27 per cent OBC quota and other labour issues," he said, while stressing that 'courts should stay within their limits.'

Dravida Kazhagam President K Veeramani, criticised the "enthusiasm of the apex body” to hear a case even on a Sunday, whereas lakhs of cases are pending in many courts across India.

The AIADMK made a special mention before the Madras High Court with regard to "violation of the apex court order."

The apex court yesterday ruled that the proposed shutdown was unconstitutional, and if observed, it could go against the court's directive on the issue.

The AIADMK in its petition contended that the shutdown call was unwarranted, as the matter relating to the canal project is already pending before the Supreme Court.

The Karunanidhi led party had been protesting to impress upon the Centre to get the Supreme Court stay on the project off the Tamil Nadu coast vacated.

The case is currently pending before the apex court.

The Sethusamudram Project will dredge a channel in a narrow strip of sea between India and Sri Lanka, reducing distances and cutting costs for freight traffic for ships moving from Arabian Sea to Bay of Bengal.

However, Hindu groups have been opposing the 560 million dollars project, saying it would destroy the 'holy' Ram Sethu, a 48-kilometre chain of limestone shoals that once linked Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu to Mannar in Sri Lanka.

According to the Central Government, research has shown that the Ram Setu was a series of sand shoals created by sedimentation, but according to Hindus the narrow link, also known as Adam's Bridge, was built by Lord Rama.

Dredging for the project began in 2005 and the channel -- 12 metres deep, 300 metres wide and almost 90 km long -- will provide a crucial link between the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar. (With inputs from ANI)