Can place of worship be 25 km long?

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New Delhi, May 6: The Supreme Court today asked petitioners seeking declaration of Ram Setu as a monument of national heritage, whether a place of worship can have a length of 25 km.

Justice R V Raveendran also put queries to former attorney general of India Soli Sorabjee, ''We worship mother earth. Does it mean that we cannot touch earth? We also worship Himalayas. Does it mean that Himalayas cannot be touched? We worship Govardhan hill in Mathura, Vrindavan. Does it mean that nothing can be done at Govardhan hill?'' Senior counsel K Parasaran then said, ''It is very difficult to answer this question and even the judges cannot answer this query.'' Mr Sorabjee had earlier contended before a bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices R V Raveendran and J M Panchal that any restriction on the right of a substantial number of people to follow and propagate their faith and religion violates Article 25 of the Constitution, which gives freedom to every citizen of the country to follow and propagate the religion of his or her choice.

Mr Sorabjee also contended that it was immaterial whether there was historical or scientific evidence to show that Ram Setu is manmade or a natural formation and it is a matter of faith and belief as a large section of the Indian society belonging to a particular community believe that Ram Setu also known as Adam's Bridge was constructed by Lord Ram to reach Sri Lanka.

He also told the court that it was not a job of this court to enter into a controversy whether there is scientific or historical evidence to prove that Ram Setu is manmade.

Mr Sorabjee said right of freedom of worship can be restricted only on the grounds of morality and public health.

A place of worship cannot be destroyed or demolished as it amounts to infringing on the right to worship of the followers of that particular religion, he said.

The apex court wanted to know whether a bridge cannot be broken for only 300 m to facilitate the development work. Mr Sorabjee said it cannot be.

The Centre and the state of Tamil Nadu are pressing for vacation of interim stay granted by the apex court on August 31, 2007, restraining the government against damaging Ram Setu in any manner.

The Centre wants to complete Sethusamudram project at the earliest and the main contention of the Centre and Karunanidhi government is that there is no scientific or historical evidence to show that Ram Setu is manmade.

Dr Subramanian Swamy has already filed an application for impleading Union Shipping and Transport Minister T R Baalu as party alleging that the Minister and his family members as well as the daughter of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Kanimozhi, a Rajya Sabha MP have huge financial interests in the project. He has also alleged that the vessels of Fisheries Corporation Ltd, owned and controlled by Mr Baalu's family, are being used in the project and this is why Mr Baalu and Mr Karunanidhi are going out of the way for speedy completion of the Sethusamudram project.


UNI

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