Centre withdraws affidavit on 'Ram Sethu'

New Delhi, Sept 14: Seeking three months time to examine the Sethusamudram project issue, the Central Government today withdrew the affidavit relating to the mythological "Ram Setu" from the Supreme Court.

The Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balkrishnan allowed the withdrawl of affidavit and posted the matter for next hearing in the first week of January 2008.

Meanwhile, the apex Bench said that the August 31 interim order restraining any construction at the "Ram Sethu" or Adam's bridge area will continue.

The Centre said that there was no intention to cast aspersions on a religious faith or to divide the society.
The affidavit filed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on behalf of the Centre on Wednesday stated that there was no evidence to prove “the existence of the characters or the occurrence of events” in the Ramayana.

The government today said that it wanted to resolve the matter in a "constructive and mutually acceptable manner".

Union Law Minister H R Bhardwaj on Thursday said that the statements in the three paragraphs (5, 6 and 20) of the affidavit that were found objectionable would be withdrawn.

Bhardwaj further said that: “Lord Rama is an integral part of Indian culture and ethos and cannot be a matter of debate or subject matter of litigation in court.”

In the wake of protests by the BJP and other Hindu groups over the government's first affidavit, the Government had said that it would file a supplementary affidavit on the Sethusamundram case in the Supreme Court.
BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani, has said that the affidavit showed "contempt for millions of Hindus in India and abroad".

"The affidavit is the proof of government's thought process, which we have witnessed in many cases from time to time. We have named it pseudo secularism and this is the most horrendous example of this pseudo secularism," Advani told reporters.  

Hindu groups have called on the government to stop the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project, saying it will demolish the mythical bridge linking India and Sri Lanka, believed to have been built by Lord Ram.

Opposing the 560 million dollars project, they say it would destroy the Ram Sethu, a 48- kilometer chain of limestone shoals that once linked Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu to Mannar in Sri Lanka.

The Sethusamudram Project will dredge a channel in a narrow strip of sea between India and Sri Lanka, reducing distances and cutting costs for freight traffic.

According to the Central Government, research has shown that the bridge was a series of sand shoals created by sedimentation.

Dredging for the project began in 2005 and the channel -- 12 metres deep, 300 metres wide and almost 90 km long -- will provide a crucial link between the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar. (With Inputs from ANI)

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