Ram affidavit could invite legal action: L.K. Advani

via Times Of India published on September 15, 2007

NEW DELHI: Sharpening his attack on the Manmohan Singh government over the Ram Setu issue, leader of Opposition and BJP leader L K Advani said the Centre’s “Ram-did-not-exist” affidavit could be punishable under various sections of the criminal law which provides for prison terms of up to three years for acts intended to outrage religious feelings.

Whether an affidavit submitted to the SC could be the ground for a criminal case or legal proceedings was a point in law which needed to be settled, Advani told TOI. But, it was clear that the government’s submission, while defending the Sethusamudram project, was an affront to the beliefs of a vast majority of Indians.

“There can be no doubt that the affidavit filed by the government of India in the Supreme Court two days back is an act of blasphemy, which insults the religious beliefs of one billion people and so is punishable under Indian law,” he said. “This is not just a simple mistake, but a penal offence,” the BJP leader said.

Advani said that Section 295 (a) of the Indian Penal Code deals with acts “intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs”, which are punishable with three years of imprisonment.

The Centre’s affidavit, which said that there was no historical evidence to prove “existence of the characters or occurrence of events” in ‘Ramayana’, had poured contempt on the faith of a billion people.

Expanding on his theme that the Centre’s stand had not been a casual instance, Advani referred to reports that the Archaeological Survey of India had strong reservations over the contents of the affidavit. The BJP leader pointed out that reports had underlined that the Centre’s counsel had, in fact, insisted that the offending paragraphs were essential to the argument in favour of dredging Adam’s Bridge or Ram Setu.

This, said Advani, reflected the mindset of the government and Congress. “There is a view that the sentiments of the majority community can be trampled upon with impunity,” he said. He argued that the sensibilities of the people cannot be lost sight of and the denial of the existence of Lord Ram was a good example of the thoughtless and uncaring attitude of the government to what is an article of faith for so many.

The developments in the Ram Setu case had highlighted two shortcomings of the government. “Ministerial accountability which is the hallmark of the parliamentary system is totally absent and the office of the chief executive, namely that of the Prime Minister, has been completely devalued,” he said, reiterating BJP’s persistent criticism of Manmohan Singh.

There are, in the UPA set-up, two major power centres which wield greater authority that even the PM. “These are not at all accountable either to Parliament or to the people. These are the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Left parties led by CPM,” Advani said. “This is the root of the series of blunders being committed by this government, this affidavit being the latest example,” he pointed out.



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