Friday, May 9, 2008

Why should Rama Setu be protected? -- a para-legal excursus

My humble pranams at the feet of all those great souls who are
battling for Ram Sethu
in the top court to show the world what Dharma is.

Dharma is that which needs to be sustained and supported at a given time.
The present time is such that the high standard of ethics that is
associated with Rama and his ayana - his journey long ago - must be
upheld in the face of growing attacks on those principles of ethics
and of attempts to suppress and dismiss the great Past of this land,
as fiction.

There is a wealth of information about the by-gone times hidden in Sethu Thittu
and Ganga Sagar.
There is a wealth of information by way of rationale as to why we
should not disturb Bhoomatha - something the SC judge questioned.
As Dr kalyanaraman has said in this article given here,
we see the current developments as an opportunity to tell this nation
and its youth
the rich culture and past we have inherited.

Aa Sethu Himachala - let this march to infuse Dharmic sense in this
land begin from Sethu!



Why should Rama Setu be protected? – a para-legal excursus

Here is an account of the happenings in the Supreme Court on Rama Setu
protection case and the consequent introspections on why Rama Setu
should be protected despite the bogus, baseless arguments advanced on
grounds of non-existent abhyudayam.

When Court asked Senior Advocate Shri Parasaran as to why he was
arguing on 'this' side (that is, the side of the petitioners seeking
protection of Rama Setu and hence, Dharma), he responded emotionally
that he is at the fag-end of his life and career and this was an
opportunity provided for him to protect dharma and he also told the
Court that this was an opportunity for the Court also to participate
in this sacred responsibility of protecting dharma.

When Court asked Dr. Subramanian Swamy how SC can overcome the
jurisdiction problem of questioning policy decisions or economic
issues, Dr. Swamy responded effectively and convincingly that it was
incumbent on the court to intervene when a fraud or gross illegality
can be demonstrated that the economic viability of the project was a
fiction created with baseless data and that the project was fradulent.
He went on to demonstrate that the project will be in the red for Rs.
56 crores in Year 1 and Rs. 150 crores in Year 9 and thereafter using
the figures given by the Union of India in their documents. These
losses are, in fact, understatements. The actual losses will be much
larger if social costs are reckoned (as required under law), if
maintenance dredging costs are fairly computed and if security costs
(both capital and maintenance costs) are included in the project
costs. Dr. Swamy also demonstrated the need to make Hon'ble TR Baalu a
respondent because of conflict of interest with involvement in
stevedoring or marine product export companies.

Senior Advocate Soli Sorabjee responded effectively to the stupid
question which stated that the bhumaata is sacred, the mountains are
sacred, Ganga is sacred, trees are sacred that this perception should
not stop removal of stones or building of bridges. This was rebutted
effectively citing the responsibility of the State under Article 25 to
protect Religious Freedom and not to destroy, by desecration, the very
character of the Rama Setu which is a bridge built by Rama to
establish dharma. Not an inch, not a piece of rock from this ancient
monument can be touched by any power on earth. Section 295 of Criminal
Procedure Code makes it a cognizable offence to offend the sentiments
of crores of Hindus worldwide. The Court was also told that Ganga
Sagar and Sethu are places of worship in the Indian Ocean.
Skandapurana which is the sacred text of identified teerthasthaanas
and puja vidhaanam prescribed the worship of Rama Setu and the
s'ivalinga installed in the middle of Rama Setu uttering Setumadhava
and Ramanatha (Ashtakshari and Panchakshari mantras) and walking on
the Setu. Every ashadha amavasya day every year, over 5 lakh pilgrims
gather at the Setu tirtham and offer tarpanam to pitrus – ancestors
are worshipped with the sankalpa which starts: Sri rama rama rameti…
He is Maryada purushottama, Ramayana is the aadi kaavya, There can be
no Ramayana without Setubandhana which is the very symbol of what can
be accomplished with will and determination and the symbol of
establishment and protection of dharma. This is a memory venerating
Sri Rama as vigrahavaan dharmah (the very embodiment of dharma), the
paramaatman in the role of an avatara to demonstrate dharma in action.

The battle is just joined. The Setu has to be declared as an Ancient
Monument and World Heritage. Setu which has protected the nation's
coastline and symbolizes the unity and integrity of the nation cannot
be desecrated like the Taliban demolishing the Bamiyan Buddha calling
it mere stone. Setu also makes us remember Sri Rama, Vigrahavaan
dharma, the very embodiment of dharma. Setu is not mere stone bridge,
it is the very identity, the very core of Sanatana Dharma from time
immemorial, the very embodiment of Dharma identity. It just cannot be
touched even by cutting a one centimetre furrow.

So many multi-disciplinary issues were joined in the court
proceedings. Over 8000 pages of evidence and arguments and case laws
were presented. The Court had the obligation to recognize the enormity
and stupendous nature of this continuum of faith, belief and worship
and respect the sentiments of crores of people, as a civil society and
restoring the confidence of the people in the institutions which they
have created to run this samajam. A fence cannot be allowed to eat
away the crop. Institutions exist only at the service of and at the
responsibilities entrusted to these institutions by the people.

Many teams of persons have contributed to this extraordinary Hindu
unity and effort. Starting with Shri D. Kuppuramu who founded the
Rameshwaram Rama Setu Protection Movement, Senior Advocate Shri TV
Ramanujam, counsel for Shri Rama Gopalan of Hindu Munnani and Dr.
Subramanian Swamy who got the Chief Justice of Madras High Court to
issue the directions of HC on 19 June 2007 asking for the declaration
of Rama Setu as an Ancient Monument and to ask for proceeding with any
project without demolishing or desecrating Rama Setu has just been
reconfirmed by the highest court of the land by the directions issued
on these two momentous issues.

The directions are historic and let us hope that one of the
institutions which we have given to ourselves, respects the Law of the
land and does not play games with the directions (as was done by
withdrawing the bogus affidavit of ASI and thereafter making false
promises unfulfilled).

The responsibility is enormous to use this opportunity given to us by
Sri Rama to educate the youngest nation of the world, the 35% of the
population which is less than 15 years of age, to realize the great
heritage of Dharma and the importance and significance of the two
great Itihaasas, Ramayana, the Aadi kaavya and Mahabharata. Sri Rama,
Sri Krishna and Sri Mahes'vara united north and south, east and west
and across every nook and corner of Bharata Varsha. They adorn the
lithographed version of the Constitution of India published by the
Govt. of India with exquisite illustrations by the artist, Shri
Nandalal Bose.

No institution, not even the Supreme Court, can pass on the buck and
refuse to entertain issues related to National security citing
jurisdictional boundaries. In this case, ample evidence was provided
on the national security implications of any decision to desecrate
Rama Setu and the social upheaval that such a move will entail,
destroying the very fabric of the samajam and the constitutional
framework which we have given to ourselves.

The State cannot abdicate its responsibility to protect the ancient
heritage by citing dubious investigation problems. The evidence is
overwhelming: Rama Setu is a sacred place, a world heritage. Until
this is recognized by one and all -- the organizations of governance
and jurisprudence, the movement shall continue with redoubled vigour
and determination. It is the court of the people that the protection
of Rama Setu will be ensured. This is an occasion to recognise the
possibility and ensure that it happens – the construction of a temple
for Sri Rama in Ramajanmabhumi. As Srilanka, our neighbour, looks
towards Bharatam, as the Indian Ocean Community beckons, let this be
the start and renewal of Dharma renaissance, a start for Marine
Economic Zones to benefit all the coastal people and lead to
abhyudayam in their livelihood as a socio-cultural-ecomic imperative.

Dr. S. Kalyanaraman

Explore alternative alignment: court

Legal Correspondent (The Hindu, 9 May 2008)

This will help avoid controversy over damage to Sethusamudram project, says CJI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre to explore
the possibility of an alternative alignment or any other route for the
Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project without damaging Ramar Sethu
and to consider whether an archaeological study could be conducted to
declare Ramar Sethu a national monument.

Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, heading a three-judge Bench, asked
senior counsel Fali Nariman, appearing for the Centre, to consider an
alternative alignment and said that by this the government could avoid
the controversy (of damaging Ramar Sethu).

The CJI's suggestion came at the end of Thursday's arguments on behalf
of the petitioners. He told Mr. Nariman that "Subramanian Swamy and
senior counsel C.S. Vaidyanathan had said an alternative alignment was
not considered. Further, the direction given by the Madras High Court
[before the petitions were shifted to the Supreme Court] that
archaeological study must be conducted had not been implemented by the

Mr. Nariman said, "after the High Court order, we have filed a
comprehensive affidavit." Justice Raveendran pointed out that the High
Court order had not been quashed and the direction continued to remain
and the Centre had not answered this. Mr. Nariman said he [the Centre]
would consider the court's suggestion in this regard.

On the petitions filed by Dr. Swamy and Rama Gopalan, the High Court
on June 19, 2007 asked the Centre "to file a counter-affidavit
explaining whether any study has been undertaken by the archaeological
or any other department concerned in respect of Adam's Bridge/Ramar
Sethu and whether the said bridge can be regarded as a national
monument. The Union of India should also explain whether the said
project can be implemented without affecting Ramar Sethu by resorting
to some other routes." Since no affidavit had been filed on these
aspects, the CJI asked the Centre to consider this and posted the
matter for further hearing on July 22.

Can Ram Setu be monument, asks SC

PNS/ Agencies | New Delhi

Explore alternative route, Govt told

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Union Government to consider
holding an archaeological survey to ascertain whether the Ram Setu can
be declared an "ancient monument". The court also asked the Centre to
examine the possibility of carrying out the project through other

"There is a specific direction of the Madras High Court that the
Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) should carry investigations
whether Ram Setu is an ancient monument or not," a Bench headed by
Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan said. "You also explore the possibility
of carrying out the project through any other channels (alignments),"
the Bench, also comprising Justices RV Raveendran and JM Panchal,

The Supreme Court's order has come as an encouragement for the groups
opposed to destruction of the Ram Setu. Janata Party president
Subramanium Swamy, a petitioner in the case, told The Pioneer that the
apex court's order was binding on the Government in the light of the
recent Madras High Court order.

The matter will come up for further hearing on July 22. The Bench said
that in the interregnum, the Centre could consider these two aspects
as directed by the High Court on June 19 last year. Appearing for the
Centre to defend the controversial project, senior advocate Fali S
Nariman responded positively to the court's view.

Arguing against the demolition of the Ram Setu, Swamy, senior advocate
C S Vaidyanathan and others contended that there was a possibility of
going ahead with the project through alternative alignments, which
would be economically more viable and cause no damage to environment.
It would also protect the religious faith of Hindus who consider the
structure as sacred, they submitted.

Swamy, who has filed the petition for declaring Ram Setu a protected
monument, had alleged that the Government-appointed expert committee
resisted the ASI probe that the structure was man-made. While the
senior politician was questioning the committee report, the Bench said
his request in the petition was confined only to the Ram Setu but he
was arguing on entire Sethusamudram project. At this Swamy said, "If I
prove that the project is illegal, then the Ram Setu will be
protected." He would stop if the Centre forthrightly said that Ram
Setu would be protected, he added.

The Janata Party chief said he was touching other aspects of the
project as the entire economics projected in the scheme was a "fraud"
and public money was being misused and the public being misled.
Further, India had failed to comply with international obligation on
the project by not taking the Sri Lankan Government into confidence as
the scheme had implications on the maritime boundary, he added.

He said the Sri Lankan authorities were watching the outcome of the
proceedings in the apex court and Colombo may drag India to
International Court of Justice, The Hague, seeking independent probe
about the environmental impact of the project.

The 34-member advisory committee group constituted by the Sri Lankan
Government has concluded that environment impact assessment by India
on the Sethusamudram project was inadequate, the Janata Party
president claimed.

Look for alternative to proposed Setu route: SC
9 May 2008, 0035 hrs IST,Dhananjay Mahapatra,TNN

NEW DELHI: In a development that could boost those opposing the
Sethusamudram project, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre
to consider an alternative alignment for the proposed canal.

A three-judge bench also suggested the Centre explore the possibility
of a study by Archaeological Survey of India to determine if the Ram
Setu could be classified as an ancient monument.

The observations of Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices R V
Raveendran and J M Panchal should encourage the assorted group of
Hindutva activists and environmentalists who have opposed the Setu
project for diverse reasons.

After two days of discussions on the Setu - believed to have been
built by Lord Rama to cross into Ravana's kingdom - the bench asked
senior advocate Fali S Nariman to urge the Centre to examine the
viability of an alternative alignment.

Though not binding, the suggestions - coming in response to passionate
arguments on behalf of petitioners accusing the Centre of disregarding
the belief of millions to please UPA partner DMK - can add to the
reluctance of an already wary Congress on whether to go ahead with the
politically sensitive project.

The government has in any case been on the back foot since the
affidavit in the apex court questioning the existence of Lord Rama.

With BJP already on the lookout for an emotive issue, Congress may be
constrained to appear sensitive for the alternative alignment now that
it has been endorsed by the apex court.

The desirability of the alignment of the Rs 2,400 crore project that
proposes dredging a channel having a width of 300 metres on Ram Setu
to shorten the shipping distance between the western and eastern coast
ports has been questioned also by environmentalists, economists and
security analysts.

However, it is the "matter of faith for 100 crore Hindus" argument put
forward by the Hindutva organizations that is proving to be the chief

The suggestion came from the bench after Janata Party president
Subramanian Swamy, in his arguments over two days, pointed out the
fallacies in the decision of the government to go ahead with the
project ostensibly under pressure from coalition ally DMK.

What prompted the apex court to give these suggestions was the Madras
High Court order of June 19 last year asking the government to conduct
an in-depth study by ASI and consideration of an alternative alignment
without harming the Ram Setu.

With the court's interim order restraining any dredging on Ram Setu
till further orders continuing to operate, this long adjournment along
with the suggestions for an in-depth ASI study and consideration of an
alternative alignment would be sure to delay the project, despite the
government expressing its keen desire and filing an application in the
apex court seeking vacation of the interim stay order.

Senior advocates K Parasaran, Soli J Sorabjee, C S Vaidyanathan,
Sriram Panchu and M Krishnanmani, who appeared for different
petitioners, had stressed on the religious significance of Ram Setu
among Hindus and had apprehended that any dredging could bring in a
catastrophic situation akin to the one seen after the demolition of
Babri Masjid.

Swamy had accused the Centre of dithering on declaring Ram Setu a
national monument, though it had been repeatedly writing to Unesco to
confer world heritage site status on Majuli islands, where people
believe Lord Krishna had once danced with the "gopis".

Top court: Check, is Ram Sethu monument?

New Delhi, May 8: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre to
consider conducting an archaeological survey to ascertain whether the
Ram Sethu can be declared an ancient monument. The Supreme Court also
wanted the government to explore the possibility of pushing the
Sethusamudram project through other alignments which would not damage
the Ram Sethu. The Supreme Court bench said that in the interregnum
(the matter will be taken up for further hearing on July 22) the
Centre can consider these two aspects as directed by the Madras high
court on June 19, 2007.

Union tourism and culture as directed by the Madras high court on
June 19, 2007. Union tourism and culture minister Ambika Soni had been
insisting that unless an archaeological survey is conducted it cannot
be determined whether the Ram Sethu is man-made or a natural
formation. It is only after an archaeological survey that the Union
culture ministry determines whether or not it is a heritage site.

K.G. Balakrishnan and comprising Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice
J.M. Panchal said, "There is a specific direction of the Madras high
court that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) should carry out
investigations on whether or not Ram Sethu is an ancient monument."

The Supreme Court bench said Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy
and senior advocate C.S. Vaidyanathan, while opposing the demolition
of the Ram Sethu, put forward serious arguments for conducting an ASI
probe and for carrying the project through other alignments . "You
(should) also explore the possibility of carrying out the project
through any other channels (alignments)," the bench said.

Appearing for the Centre, senior advocate Fali S. Nariman responded
positively to the Supreme Court's view. Dr Swamy, Mr C.S. Vaidyanathan
and others, while arguing against the demolition of the Ram Sethu,
contended it was possible to go ahead with the project through
alternative alignments that will be economically more viable and cause
no damage to the environment besides protecting the religious beliefs
of Hindus, who consider the structure sacred.

Dr Swamy, who filed the petition in favour of declaring Ram Sethu a
protected monument, had alleged that the expert committee of eminent
persons appointed by the government to review the project resisted an
ASI probe that the structure was man-made. While the senior
politician was questioning the committee's report, the bench said his
prayer in the petition was only confined to the Rama Setu but he was
arguing on the entire Sethusamudram project.

At this, Dr Swamy said, "If I prove that the project is illegal then
the Ram Sethu will be protected." He said he would stop if the Centre
said the Ram Sethu would be protected. Dr Subramanian Swamy said he
was touching other aspects of the project as the economics projected
in the scheme was a "fraud", public money was being misused and the
public was being misled. court:
Check, is Ram Sethu monument?

Satya Prakash, Hindustan Times

Email Author

New Delhi, May 08, 2008

First Published: 21:32 IST(8/5/2008)

Last Updated: 00:58 IST(9/5/2008)

Find a way around Ram Setu, Govt told

In a setback to the UPA government's ambitious Setusamudram Shipping
Canal Project, the Supreme Court on Thursday asked it to conduct an
archaeological investigation to find out if 'Ram Setu' could be
declared an 'ancient monument'.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan also asked
the government to explore the possibility of adopting some alternative
route/alignment for completing it without damaging the Ram Setu, as
suggested by the petitioners opposing the project.

"There is a specific direction of the Madras High Court that the
Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) should carry out investigations
whether Ram Setu is an ancient monument or not," the bench said. The
court had already ordered that no damage be caused to the Ram Setu.

The latest development virtually puts the project — being pushed by
UPA ally DMK — in a limbo. The government cannot proceed without
presenting before the court the findings of the ASI and its decision
regarding alternative routes. The ASI will examine if the Setu could
be declared an ancient monument under the Ancient Monuments and
Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.

In a way, the UPA government that had to withdraw its earlier
affidavit denying the existence of Ram and Ram Setu as a manmade
structure would heave a sigh of relief. It may indeed lose a few
brownie points to the Opposition.

But at the same time, the Centre can put the issue on the backburner
without offending the DMK, as the process ordered by the court may not
be complete before the next round of assembly elections and the
general election.

The court noted that Janata Party president Subramanium Swamy and
Hindu Munnani senior advocate C.S. Vaidyanathan had advanced "serious"
arguments for conducting an

ASI probe and for taking forward the project through some other route.
The two and others opposed to the project submitted that they wouldn't
oppose the project if it could be completed without damaging the Setu.

They argued that alternative alignments would be economically more
viable and won't cause damage to the environment besides respecting
the religious faith of crores of Hindus.

Vaidyanathan had suggested a route through Dhanushkodi by removing the
landmass in an area of about 800 metres. It could start from where the
present route i.e. alignment no.6 begins in the Gulf of Mannar and
take a turn towards Dhanushkodi in the southern part of Rameshwaram
island and finally meet the same alignment in the Palk Bay to avoid
the Ram Setu' altogether. The court posted the case for hearing on
July 22.

Save Sethu or scrap the project, says Swamy

Legal Correspondent (The Hindu, May 8, 2008)

Court must harmonise religious faith and development by directing
government to take alternative alignment

Whether anybody goes to the middle of the sea to offer worship or not
is secondary

Project not economically viable, it will be a security risk

New Delhi: The Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project should be
scrapped altogether if the government cannot proceed further without
destroying Ramar Sethu (Adam's Bridge), Janata Party president
Subramanian Swamy argued in the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

"It is established and admitted by the respondents that a structure,
that is natural or constructed and widely known for very long as Ramar
Sethu, does exist but that its origins and nature have admittedly not
been investigated yet despite overwhelming prima facie evidence that
Ramar Sethu is a constructed causeway that fits the description in
Valmiki's Ramayana," he told a Bench comprising Chief Justice K.G.
Balakrishnan and Justices R.V. Raveendran and J.M. Panchal.

As per 'Images India', a document of the National Remote Sensing
Agency of the Ministry of Space under the Prime Minister's Office,
tabled in Parliament, "the structure of Ramar Sethu suggests that it
may be man made and the bridge is seen as an example of ancient
history linked to the Indian mythology," Dr. Swamy said.

Ad on trains

He pointed out that a Tamil Nadu government advertisement on trains
said: "The waters here [Rameswaram island] still carry the blessings
of Lord Rama's lotus feet because this is where the monkey army
crossed over to Lanka to rescue Sita."

The Centre wrote to the UNESCO urging that the Majuli Island in Assam
be declared an ancient monument. "While so, why is the Centre hesitant
to seek a declaration that Ramar Sethu is an ancient monument?"

"For people to decide"

Dr. Swamy said: "Whether anybody goes to the middle of the sea to
offer worship or not is secondary. We worship the Sun god but we don't
go to the Sun. What is held to be sacred by a large number of people
of this country must remain sacred and no sacrilege must be allowed by
rupturing Ramar Sethu. This court cannot decide what is sacred. It is
for the people of this country to decide what is sacred."

He said: "Religious sensibilities and feelings of nearly a billion
persons of Hindu faith and those of other religious persuasions, who
respect the sanctity of faith, cannot be disregarded in a narrow
pursuit of the project claiming to advance economic development on
economic calculations."

The Centre's decision to select alignment 6 for implementing the
project was "arbitrary, unreasonable and illegal."

"Biased report"

Referring to the report of the Committee of Eminent Persons, Dr. Swamy
said it "contains inferences that are not supported by data or studies
and it is a biased report. Prof. Ramachandran, who headed this
committee, had met Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi at a
meeting held to protest the Supreme Court's interim order of stay on
dredging across Ramar Sethu."

Delhi metro project

He pointed out that during the execution of the Delhi metro rail
project, an objection was raised to the elevated structure near the
Qutb Minar on the ground that vibrations during train movement would
affect a tomb. Subsequently, the project was revised as an underground
system involving an additional cost of Rs. 558 crore. "But this
government will not care for millions of Hindus and wants to break
Ramar Sethu."

Dr. Swamy said the Sethu project would not be economically viable,
besides being a security risk to the country. The court must harmonise
religious faith and economic development by directing the government
to carry out the project through an alternative alignment without
touching Ramar Sethu; otherwise, it should be scrapped.

Combine two alignments

Earlier, senior counsel C.S. Vaidyanathan, appearing for Hindu Munnani
leader Rama Gopalan, suggested with the help of a map that alignments
4 and 6 could be combined and the project implemented without
affecting Ramar Sethu.

Further arguments will continue on Thursday.

"Breaking Ramar Sethu will be another scar like the Babri Masjid demolition"

J. Venkatesan (The Hindu, May 8, 2008)

Even if one mm of causeway is removed, it will amount to defiling the
sacred place: Parasaran

New Delhi: "The Babri Masjid demolition [at Ayodhya] is a scar on
Indian secularism that will never be removed. Similarly breaking Ramar
Sethu will also leave a permanent scar on the Hindu faith and belief,"
the former Attorney-General K. Parasaran said on Tuesday.

He was arguing before a Supreme Court Bench comprising Chief Justice
K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices R.V. Raveendran and J.M. Panchal, which
is hearing petitions challenging the Sethusamudram Ship Channel
Project on the ground that implementing it would cause damage to Ramar
Sethu (Adam's Bridge). Mr. Parasaran, appearing for Hindu Munnani
leader Rama Gopalan, said: "Ramar Sethu is considered by large
sections of believers a holy and a sacred place. That part of the sea
in the area of Dhanuskodi, Rameswaram, Tirupulani and Devipatnam is
considered a holy place by reason of the existence of Ramar Sethu,
believed to have been constructed to enable Lord Rama to have passage
to Sri Lanka. To interfere [with] or destroy even a part of the said
causeway would be an interference with the right of liberty of belief,
faith and worship."

Earlier when Soli Sorabjee, former Attorney-General and senior
counsel, was making his submissions, Justice Raveendran asked "whether
even a small portion of Ramar Sethu [300 metres] can't be touched for
purposes of development."

The judge said: "In our country, the Himalayas, Goverdhan and
Tirupathi hills, rivers and land [Boomatha] are all worshipped. Do you
mean to say that the land can't be touched, dams can't be constructed
across rivers and hills can't be touched for stones?"

Special sanctity

Answering this question, Mr. Parasaran said: "This is a matter of
established customs and faith. An idol, object, place, river or city
may be held sacred. Sethu and Ganga are considered the most sacred
places in the country. Special sanctity is attached to the whole area
of Sethu and we offer worship in four places — Dhanuskodi, Rameswaram,
Tirupulani and Devipatnam — all connected with Lord Rama. You can't
defile a place which is considered holy. If you cut across Sethu, you
are defiling that place. Even if one millimetre of Ramar Sethu is
removed, it will amount to defiling the sacred place."

He quoted extensively from various documents, texts and puranas which
had a reference to Ramar Sethu as a place of worship, and said a duty
was cast on the government to protect it.

When Mr. Parasaran was explaining the role assigned to each community
in society, Justice Raveendran jocularly asked, "Are you arguing the
reservation case or this case?"

Referring to the arguments of Mr. Sorabjee, who is appearing for S.
Kalyanaraman, Mr. Parasaran said: "Before taking up this case, Mr.
Sorabjee had read three volumes of Valmiki Ramayanam and the Ramayana
written by C. Rajagopalachari." Justice Raveendran retorted: "Do you
expect judges also to become experts by reading these volumes."

Public interest

Mr. Parasaran said "the present case involves two aspects of the
public interest, viz. claim of right to religious belief, faith and
worship, on the one hand, and the claim of economic and commercial
development in the matter of providing convenient passage for ships
[on the other]. Every attempt should be made to accommodate both
aspects of the public interest. But there is complete abdication of
responsibility and non-application of mind by the government."

On August 31 last, the court, acting on Janata Party president
Subramanian Swamy's application, passed an interim order restraining
the Centre from causing any damage to Ramar Sethu in carrying out the
project. Among the other petitioners are AIADMK general secretary
Jayalalithaa and the Dandi Swami, Sri Vidyananada Bharati.

It is the belief of the country that matters: Soli Sorabjee

Legal Correspondent (The Hindu, 7 May 2008)

New Delhi: A religious belief which is genuinely and conscientiously
held over a long period by a substantial number of followers of a
particular religion becomes an integral part of that religion and is
entitled to protection under Article 25 of the Constitution (right to
freedom of religion), senior counsel Soli Sorabjee argued in the
Supreme Court on Tuesday.

"Religious feelings of the people are to be respected and not
offended. It is the belief of Hindus that Ramar Sethu was constructed
by Lord Rama and his followers who crossed the bridge to Lanka and
retrieved Sita from the clutches of the demon Ravan. That indeed is
the essential theme of the Ramayana, which is an article of faith with
the Hindus."

Mr. Sorabjee, appearing for S. Kalyanaraman in the Ramar Sethu case,
said: "The issue before the court is not whether this belief can be
historically or scientifically established. The court cannot sit in
judgment on that belief. The court's role is to determine whether this
belief is genuinely or conscientiously held over a period of time by
Hindus and if that be so it falls within the ambit of the freedom of
religion guaranteed by Article 25."

If worship and rituals were performed over a long period, these would
get constitutional protection and the court could not interfere with
it, he said.

Intervening, Justice R.V. Raveendran said: "Here it is not a question
of rituals or worship. This principle can't be extended to something
which is under water. The length, width and size will matter. They
[government] are not demolishing Ramar Sethu. They are saying only 300
metres of it would be cut. Will this change or affect the sanctity of
the entire structure? Even trees are worshipped in this country. What
is the philosophy and principle you are trying to say?"

Mr. Sorabjee said: "Don't take extreme positions. We are not concerned
with hill, mountain or lake. For over 1,500 years Ramar Sethu is in
the minds of the people. Even the committee of eminent persons had
said that this belief is deeply ingrained in the minds of the people.
It is the belief of the country that matters. One has to see the
circumstances and threat in the minds of those who hold that belief.
Any object, however, trivial it may be, if it is connected with
people's religious belief it has to be protected."

He said: "Ramar Sethu has acquired a special significance amongst the
Hindus. Consequently, any state action which results in impairment or
even partial destruction of Ramar Sethu and leads to extinction or
diminution of the right to worship at Ramar Sethu as at present is per
se violative of the guarantee of freedom of religion."

Senior counsel C.S. Vaidyanathan, who along with K. Parasaran is
appearing for Hindu Munnai leader Rama Gopalan, dwelt on an
alternative alignment for carrying out the Sethusamudram project. "It
is the faith of Hindus that a bridge was constructed by Lord Rama. By
destroying Ramar Sethu, the fundamental character of the bridge will
be lost and it will no longer be called a bridge. In the case of a
mountain or a river, even if something is done, it will not change its
character. But if you demolish Sethu, it will cease to be a bridge."

The project could be implemented by considering alignment 4 and the
cost would also be cheaper than alignment 6 but this aspect was not at
all considered (The Centre says there is no alternative to the
existing alignment 6.)

Mr. Vaidyanathan will continue his arguments on Wednesday.

Faith can't be questioned or probed: Venugopal

J. Venkatesan (The Hindu, 2 May 2008)

"800 million people believe Ramar Sethu was built by Lord Ram. Can
court go into the issue whether he existed?"

People believe Christ was crucified at a particular place. Can this be probed?

NIOT report indicates that Ramar Sethu was man made

New Delhi: There is considerable scientific and historical evidence to
suggest that Ramar Sethu (Adam's Bridge) is man made and should be
declared an ancient monument of national importance, senior counsel
K.K. Venugopal argued in the Supreme Court on Thursday.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices R.V.
Raveendran and J.M. Panchal is hearing petitions challenging the
Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project on the ground that its
implementation would damage Ramar Sethu.

Acting on Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy's application, the
court on August 31, 2007 restrained the Centre from taking up dredging
across Ramar Sethu. Final arguments on the petitions began on

Historical evidence

Appearing for petitioners the Dandi Swami Sri Vidyananda Bharati and
AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa, Mr. Venugopal said even
assuming that Ramar Sethu was a natural formation, there was
historical evidence to show that this bridge was used by the people of
India and Sri Lanka as a link between the two nations. Any structure
that was more than 100 years old, natural or man made, could be
declared a national monument by the Archaeological Survey of India.

He said, "800 million people in India believe that Ramar Sethu was a
bridge built by Lord Ram. Can the court go into the issue whether Lord
Ram existed or whether the bridge was constructed by the God?"

Citing an example, counsel said: "People [particularly Christians]
believe that Jesus Christ was crucified at a particular place. Can
this be probed or gone into by the court? These are all related to
people's faith which cannot be probed by the court or the government."

He quoted a National Institute of Ocean Technology report indicating
that Ramar Sethu was a man-made structure, dating back to antiquity.
"This being so, Ramar Sethu deserves to be declared an 'ancient
monument' under the provisions of the Ancient Monuments Preservation
Act, 1904 and to be preserved and protected in accordance with the

To a question from Justice Raveendran whether the structure could not
be destroyed even partially for the sake of economic development of
the country, Mr. Venugopal said: "The Red Fort in Delhi is declared a
national monument. Even if one stone is removed or a portion of the
wall is demolished, it would lose the character of a national
monument." The structure should be preserved as it existed.

The Chief Justice asked counsel whether the petitioners had made any
application before the ASI for declaring Ramar Sethu a national
monument. He also pointed out that the project was cleared in 1999
after inviting objections and no one opposed it then. Dr. Swamy
intervened and said the project was cleared only in 2004 and he had
written several letters to the Minister concerned and other
authorities urging that Ramar Sethu be preserved.

Duty to nation

Mr. Venugopal said it was not a question of some one raising an
objection. The Centre owed a duty to the nation and on its own it
could declare a structure an ancient monument and take steps to
preserve and protect it. The Chief Justice said, "Sometimes ASI may
not be aware of all the structures and such a declaration is made on
the basis of people's representations. The ASI can do it on its own

Counsel said: "If the [Sethu] project is allowed to be continued and
Ramar Sethu is destroyed, the petitions would become infructuous and
the situation would become irreversible. That would be a sad day for
this country."

Earlier, senior counsel Sriram Panchu, Chennai lawyer, appearing for
petitioner O. Fernandez, cited various reports and said environment
impact assessment, risk evaluation and disaster management studies had
not been done properly before the project was cleared. Arguments will
continue on May 6.

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