Special Correspondent

Hence, it does not require protection under Articles 25 and 26

New Delhi: Even as it awaits the R.K. Pachauri committee report on an alternative route for the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project, the Centre has reiterated in the Supreme Court that Ramar Sethu is not an integral part of Hindu religion requiring protection under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution (dealing with right to freedom of religion).

The court, while reserving verdict on July 30 on the petitions filed by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy and others challenging the implementation of the Sethusamudram project by demolishing Adam’s Bridge (Ramar Sethu), asked the parties to file written submissions. The court said the judgment would be pronounced after the experts panel submitted its report. Accordingly, the Centre filed its written submissions.

Response to petitioners

The Centre said: “Ramar Sethu does not form an integral or essential part of Hindu religion. A religious belief or practice which is not an essential and integral part of the religion is not protected by Articles 25 and 26.” This was in response to the petitioners’ argument that the destruction of Ramar Sethu would cause irreparable damage to Hindus’ religious sentiments.

Referring to the argument by senior counsel K. Parasaran (for one of the petitioners) that Ramar Sethu could not be touched as it was sacred, the Centre said: “The religious texts relied [upon] by him themselves showed that the bridge had been built and had been broken by Lord Rama himself.” Mr. Parasaran had also argued that anything broken could not be worshipped.

The Centre said the petitioner did not prove that Lord Rama himself did not break the bridge.

“Nor has it been established that whatever remains of Ramar Sethu as a place of worship is an essential and integral part of the Hindu religion.”

Quoting Gazetteer of Southern India 1855, the Centre said that after returning from Sri Lanka upon His victory over Ravana, Lord Rama “took his heavy bow and with it made several breaches in the bridge so wide that nobody could pass over it on foot.”

Geological evidence

Seeking dismissal of the petitions, the Centre said geological evidence “shows that this gap was once a bridge and it was breached during the violent storms in 1480. Operations for removing the obstacles in the channel and for deepening and widening it were begun in 1838.”

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