Centre leaves it to top court

The government has toed the line of Union culture minister Ambika Soni of leaving a decision on the Sethusamudram Project to the Supreme Court. The question at stake was whether the Ram Sethu was man-made or a natural formation. The government was in no position to take any position, since it had not conducted independent archaeological studies to arrive at any definitive conclusion. The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA), chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday, finalised the affidavit to be filed by the government in the Supreme Court on the Sethusamudram Project. The CCPA was attended by external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, Union power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Union culture min ister Ambika Soni, Union law minister H.R. Bhardwaj and Union shipping ,minister T.R. Baalu. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had earlier set up a GoM headed by external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, where the government response was formulated. The Union Cabinet secretary was then asked to draft the govern ment affidavit, with inputs from the Union culture secretary, Union shipping secretary and Union law secretary. The Supreme Court on January 31 had granted another four weeks of extension to the Centre to file affidavit by the first week of March. An affidavit on the issue filed by the government in September last that sparked a furore as it raised questions over existence of Lord Ram. Union culture minis ter Ambika Soni had ordered deletion of the controversial portions of the draft affidavit, before embarking on a visit of Japan. But the instructions were not carried out and the offensive portions ordered to be deleted were retained, triggering a controversy. Ms Ambka Soni ordered withdrawing of the affidavit and suspended two officials of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for gross negligence of duty.

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