The Central government on Friday withdrew its two affidavits, including the controversial one filed by Archeological Survey of India, in the Supreme Court on the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project.
Appearing before a bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice R V Raveendran, Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium said the Union government will set up a committee to re-examine the entire Ram Sethu issue.
It was mentioned in the controversial affidavit that there was no evidence to prove the existence of Lord Ram. This had created a furore across the nation, following which the government decided to withdraw the affidavit.
Subramanyam told the Supreme Court that the government will form a committee shortly, which will be entrusted with the task of hearing the grievances of the people including the petitioners on this issue.
"The government has total respect for all religions, and Hinduism in particular, in the context of the present case. The government is alive and conscious of religious sensibilities, including the unique, ancient and holy text of Ramayana," the ASG told the court.
"The government is also keen that its decisions bind and bring the society together rather than cause any disruption in the religious and social psyche of one true India," Subramaniam said.
Promising to examine issues relating to the Sethusamudram project, the government sought three months' time from the court. In accordance with the government's request, the court posted the matter for hearing in the first week of January, 2008.
No damage to Ram Sethu:
The government was committed to the Sethusamudram canal project, Subramanyam said, adding that the government was abiding by the earlier interim order of the court that had restrained them from damaging the bridge.
He, however, said that they would go ahead with the dredging work on the project as there was no court order restraining them from doing so.
It was further submitted that the matter pertaining to the Sethu will be decided as per the suggestions and feedback given by the general public. He also said that people could write into the government with their suggestions as it may be difficult for the committee to give each one a personal hearing on the matter.
The committee, which will be constituted in a week's time, according to sources will hear the grievances and submit a report to the government. This report will then be placed before the Supreme Court, which is seized of the matter.
Subramanyam further submitted that the controversial affidavit did not at any point of time intend to touch upon the freedom/articles of faith or belief of any section of society.
"The centre respects each and every individual within the parameters of the Constitution, and acknowledges every citizen's fundamental right to feel a part of the composite cultural and religious heritage of the country," the additional solicitor general told the court.
With Agency Inputs