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Govt skirts faith issue in Setu affidavit

The Centre files a fresh affidavit in the SC that skirts the sensitive issue of faith. Satya Prakash reports.
Hindustan Times | By Satya Prakash, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 01, 2008 02:41 AM IST

Once bitten twice shy. Having been forced to withdraw its earlier affidavits denying the existence of Ram and describing the Ram Setu as a manmade structure, the Centre on Friday filed a fresh affidavit in the Supreme Court that skirted the sensitive issue of faith.

"The Union of India is of the belief that it should not be called upon to respond to issues of faith, except in recognising their existence," the Centre said in its much-awaited 60-page affidavit.

It said: "issues of faith, except those in which historicity of an event is subject to adjudication, cannot be resolved by taking recourse to science or scientific evidence." The exception apparently refers to the pending case related to the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute.

Maintaining that India is a secular State and respects all religions and religious faiths and beliefs, it said a secular State cannot espouse the cause of any religion, faith or belief. The State respects all religions and faiths but cannot make them the basis and instrument of State policy."

The Centre requested the court to vacate its order restraining it from damaging the Ram Setu on the ground that a committee of eminent persons found nothing wrong with the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project and any further delay would cause a huge financial loss to the state exchequer. The court will consider the affidavit along with the report of the committee of eminent persons on March 5.

The UPA Government sought to emphasise that the project has been considered by successive governments of varying political ideologies cutting across party lines and that the opposition to it was misconceived.

"The project has been under active consideration of the government since November 1996 and was vetted and endorsed by not less than four ministers in the previous government, including Arun Jaitley, VP Goel, S Thirunavukkarasar and Shatrughan Sinha," it said.

Terming the project as important from the economic, navigational and strategic points of view, the government said the alignment no 6, where work is currently going on, was the most feasible route from the environmental point of view as well.

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