New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the government to make its stand clear on whether the ancient Rama Sethu could be declared as a national monument.

A bench headed by Justice H L Dattu granted a day's time to Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Haren Raval to take instructions from the relevant government departments on the issue and posted the matter for further hearing on Thursday, March 29.

"If you say you don't want to file counter affidavit, we can go ahead with the argument in the case," the bench said.

It also directed the government to place the report of the Prime Minister-appointed panel, headed by environmentalist R K Pachauri, on the feasibility of executing the controversial Sethusamudram project through Dhanuskodi instead of routing it through the Rama Sethu.

Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy who is also a petitioner on the controversial issue said there has been delay on the part of the government in placing the report and it should be directed to immediately place the report before the court.

The Apex Court, however, granted six weeks to the government for the purpose, saying "making them hurry will not be good for anybody".

The Apex Court had earlier set a deadline of February 2011 for submission of the Pachauri panel's report but the time limit had to be extended by it from time to time.

The Apex Court had earlier ruled out passing any direction relating to the Sethusamudram project saying it will wait for the final report of the expert committee which is examining the feasibility of executing the project through Dhanuskodi instead of Rama Sethu.

Sethusamudram project is aimed at constructing a shorter navigational route around India's southern tip by breaching the mythological Rama Sethu, built by Lord Rama's army of monkeys and beers to the demon king Ravana's kingdom Lanka.

As per the Sethusamudram project, the shipping channel is proposed to be 30 meter wide, 12 meter deep and 167 km long.

Swamy had submitted that the court could consider either invalidating the project or ask the authorities to examine whether Rama Sethu could be declared as a historical monument.

The interim report pointed out that given the variations in ocean currents, wind patterns and related sedimentation as well as other phenomenon, it would be incomplete to arrive at Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the basis of information which is less than the entire annual cycle of 365 days.

(Agencies)