M A I N   N E W S

Offending affidavit to be amended
Ram integral to India: Govt
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, September 13
Coming under tremendous pressure from Opposition BJP and other Sangh Parivar outfits and even some of its allies for filing a controversial affidavit in the Supreme Court in the Sethusamudram case questioning the existence of Lord Rama, the UPA government, in a volte-face today, decided to drop every objectionable paragraphs from it and file an amended affidavit by tomorrow.

The decision to withdraw the objectionable references from the affidavit negating the existence of Lord Rama and Ramayana characters was announced by law minister H. R. Bhardwaj after a cabinet meeting at a hurriedly called press conference where he announced that UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi “has also expressed serious concern over the affidavit.”

Admitting that there was a “mistake” on the part of Archaeological Survey of India in making such objectionable assertions in its affidavit, Bhardwaj said the existence of Lord Rama could not be questioned.

“We have noticed media reports about the affidavit giving certain impression…. In order to correct it, we say Rama is an integral part of the life of Hindus in the country. He cannot be made a matter of dispute. It is an article of faith, which cannot be made the subject matter of litigation. This impression is dispelled,” he said.

It is learnt that some UPA allies, including RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, had expressed displeasure over the ASI, an important government agency, making such a stand on a sensitive matter involving the faith of crores of Hindus in the country and giving an issue to the opposition BJP.

While putting the blame for filing such an affidavit on his law officers, Bhardwaj, whose ministry is responsible for vetting all legal documents to be filed in the court in important cases, said “we should have not averred that in the affidavit. Those paras will be withdrawn.”

Bhardwaj said the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha L. K. Advani had spoken to him on the issue yesterday and drew “my attention” to the controversial paragraphs.

“Our government has no intention to give an impression that Rama did not exist. I have told the same to Advani,” the law minister said.

Sonia Gandhi has sought a clarification from the government as under which circumstances such a controversial affidavit was filed and asked the authorities concerned to take necessary remedial measures, Congress sources said.

Rushing straight to the press conference after the Ram’s existence is matter of faith not subject to litigation, says law minister

cabinet meeting, Bhardwaj said he was making an authoritative statement on behalf of the government to make its stand clear on the issue. “We don’t want to give any impression that any religion is inferior. Every religion has to be respected equally,” he said.

Asked about the fresh stand of the government on the issue, he said all paragraphs having references about Ramayana or its characters in the affidavit would be removed.

He, however, said the government would contest the Sethusamudram case in the apex court on merits, claiming that the project was beneficial for the country and it should not be linked to Lord Rama and made a “political issue”.

The new affidavit will be prepared under his direct supervision in consultation with the law secretary and additional solicitor-general Gopal Subramaniam, he said.



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