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Govt withdraws affidavits
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, September 14
Sensing the potential political fallout of the Ram Setu issue, the UPA government today virtually took a u-turn on the Sethusamudram project and withdrew from the Supreme Court its two affidavits, including the controversial one filed by the ASI claiming there was no historical or scientific evidence to establish the existence of Lord Ram and Ram Setu as a man-made bridge.

The government told the apex court that it wanted to re-examine the project by scrutinising the entire material afresh and was open to any alternative suggestions.

While seeking three months time to complete the re-examination exercise, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Gopal Subramaniam placed before a Bench of Chief Justice K.G Balakrishnan and Justice R.V Raveendran a brief supplementary affidavit a day after the government decided to withdraw the controversial affidavit by ASI.

The ASG said this was being done keeping in view the sentiments of Hindus after taking note of the wide-ranging public sentiments, expressed in respect of the decision of the government to proceed with the Sethusamudram shipping channel.

“The government without any reservation, in the spirit of inclusiveness and high democratic tradition, to consider a different point of view, withdraws the present affidavit, to re-examine the entire matter. The government assures all concerned that all materials will be re-scrutinised with care and circumspection, including any alternative suggestions,” the fresh affidavit said.

Taking ASG’s statement on record, the court allowed the government time till first week of January to complete the re-examining exercise and till then extended its earlier stay order restraining Sethusamudram Corporation from touching any portion of the Ram Setu while carrying out the dredging work to build the channel in the Palk Strait area.

The court also directed the government that if the petitioners asked for any document or text on the Ram Setu or related issue available with it, the same would be made available to them.

It further said before taking any further decision on the issue, the petitioners would be given a chance by the government to place before it their point of view and any material available with them relating to the case.

Though the ASG said the project would go on, the virtual impression given by him was that the government might not cause any damage to Ram Setu and look for an alternative route in the area to dig the shipping channel, which had earlier been found feasible but with higher cost.

After law minister H.R Bhardwaj had yesterday announced the government decision to withdraw the controversial paras of the ASI affidavit and stated that doubts could not be raised about existence of Ram as He was an article of faith, the Centre in its fresh affidavit asserted that “it has total respect for all religions, and Hinduism in particular, in the context of the present case.”

“The government is alive and conscious of religious sensibilities, including the unique, ancient and holy text of Ramayana…it is clarified that the (ASI) affidavit did not, at any point of time intend to touch upon the articles of faith or belief of any section of the society,” it said.

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