New Delhi, April 15: The Supreme Court today lambasted Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy for describing the Ram Setu as a place of worship.
Swamy, along with several environment and religious activists, has been fighting a long legal battle to stop the Sethusamudram project from cutting through the Ram Setu, which many believe was built by Ram. The project seeks to carve a shipping channel between India and Sri Lanka.
Who worships there? Who goes to the middle of the sea to worship? a bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan asked.
My wife and I have worshipped there, Swamy shot back.
When the court pointed out that it was a matter of perception, Swamy said: It is not my belief. It is the belief of the people of this country that it is a sacred place…. You cannot sanction the belief of the people.
But the bench would not buy his argument. Dont say people go there and worship… people worship at Rameshwaram, the court said.
Swamy, however, continued to insist that the row was a matter of faith, not law.
The Janata Party leader, who had first wanted the alignment of the canal changed, now wants the project scrapped on religious grounds.
The setu is an undersea chain of islets and cannot be seen. Swamy said the culture ministry and the Archaeological Survey of India could not term it a natural structure without a proper study.
He said the Centre was bound by a Madras High Court order to consider an archaeological probe.
Senior advocates K.K. Venugopal and Arun Jaitley, appearing for the other petitioners, echoed Swamy.
The Centre had on February 29 filed a fresh affidavit seeking clearance for the project, saying issues of faith could not be resolved through scientific evidence.
It has now engaged senior advocate Fali S. Nariman to seek clearance for the Rs 2,087-crore project.
Swamy also dismissed as biased an expert committee report that said there was no evidence to show that the setu was a man-made structure.
The court permitted Swamy leader to file his objections and adjourned the case till April 29.