"Damaging Rama Setu will leave scar like Babri"

PTI | New Delhi

Posted online: May 06, 2008

Government should avoid causing any damage to the "Rama Setu" as it might leave a permanent scar in the minds of people like the demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, opponents of the controversial Sethusamudram project on Thursday contended in the Supreme Court.

"Demolition of Babri Masjid has left a deep scar. The wound has healed but the scar is there. Scar of this nature must be avoided," senior advocate K Parasaran said opposing the project contending that religious faith of Hindus are attached with Rama Setu.

"Is there any compelling need to cause a wound again in the minds of so many Hindus to leave a permanent scar? A wrong deed of authority will leave a deep wound," he said before a Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishanan.

The senior advocate, appearing for the Chief of Hindu Munani, Rama Gopalan, stressed that there was a need to adopt a balanced approach between two facets of public interests -- religious belief and developmental projects.

Former Attorney General Soli J Sorabjee, who started the arguments in the day, said Rama Setu has acquired special significance amongst the Hindus and any State action, which results in impairment or even partial destruction of the structure would amount to the violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution.

"A religious belief which is genuinely and conscientiously held over a long period of time by a substantial number of adherents or followers of a particular religion becomes an integral part of that religion and is entitled to protection under Article 25," he said.

However, the Bench, also comprising Justices RV Raveendran and JM Panchal, showered a volley of questions to Sorabjee referring to various mountains and rivers which are sacred to Hindus and wanted to know from him that will the religious faith attached to those places will prevent any construction.

"Hindus worship Bhoomatta (Earth goddess)...The entire Govardhan hill near Mathura is being worshipped. Can you say that no structure can be constructed there," Justice Ravindran said.

Replying to the questions, the senior advocate said that in such cases the guiding factor would be the religious belief of the community and it cannot be established historically or scientifically.

Sorabjee at one point said, "extreme proposition" has been put to him when the judge wanted to know from him that will the religious belief prevent construction of dams on river Ganga and Narmada which are worshipped and will it prevent cutting of trees and construction work on entire Himalayas and Tirumala hills which are sacred places.

"We are not concerned with the outlandish example of mountains, rivers, trees etc. We are concerned with Rama Setu," the senior advocate said stressing that "the court's role is to determine whether aforesaid belief is genuinely or conscientiously held over a period of time by Hindus and if that be so it falls within the ambit of freedom of religion guaranteed by Article 25."

He said that religious belief of Hindus that Rama Setu was constructed by Lord Rama and his followers who crossed over the bridge to Lanka and rescued Sita from the clutches of the demon Ravana cannot be questioned.