Even as the Supreme Court awaits the Pachauri Committee report on possible new alignment for the Sethusamudram project sparing the Ram Setu, the UPA government has said the submerged structure worshipped by millions of Hindus is not an essential part of Hinduism.
“A religious belief or practice which is not an essential part of the religion is not protected by Article 25 or 26 (of the Constitution),” the Centre said in an 89 page written submission.
The petitioners opposing the project have not proved that Ram Setu formed an “integral” and “essential” part of Hindu religion, it said.
“This is necessary because the protection of Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution (Right to Religion) is to religious belief or practice which forms an essential and integral part of the religion,” it added.
The government asserted, “A religious belief or practice which is not an essential and integral part of the religion is not protected by Articles 25 or 26 of the Constitution.”
The Centre repeated its controversial argument that Lord Rama broke Ram Setu or Adams Bridge while returning from Sri Lanka and anything broken could not be worshipped.
“It has not been proved undoubtedly to be the belief of the Hindu community that Lord Rama did not himself break the bridge. Nor has it been established that whatever remains of the Rama Setu as a piece of worship is an essential and integral part of the Hindu religion,” it said.
Interestingly, the court has already reserved its verdict on the issue and was awaiting the report of a committee headed by Nobel laureate and TERI director general R.K. Pachauri on the feasibility of alternative routes for the project to avoid any damage to Ram Setu. The committee set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is already on the job.
The court had on July 30 made it clear that it would pass any order on the issue only after considering the Pachauri Committee report, but gave liberty to submit written submissions.
The UPA government’s latest controversial statements are surprising, particularly given the fact that earlier it had been forced to withdraw an affidavit that denied the existence of Ram and Ram Setu as a man-made structure following a public outcry.