The Centre on Wednesday constituted an independent 15-member trust to oversee the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya. The announcement was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha four days before the expiry of a three-month deadline set by the Supreme Court. PM Modi spoke in the Lok Sabha as soon as the house convened at 11 am, telling members he wants to share information on a “very important and historical subject for the country.”

“This topic is close to my heart like millions of countrymen and I consider it my great fortune to talk about it,” he said. Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said it would be incorrect to link the Cabinet decision to the Delhi Assembly polls. The Election Commission on Wednesday said its approval was “not required” for the government to announce the trust.

PM Modi said the Cabinet decision was in line with the direction by the Supreme Court in its verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case on November 9 last year. The top court settled a long-festering religious issue and allowed the building of a temple at the site where many Hindus believe Lord Ram was born. It also fixed a three-month deadline for the Centre to form a trust.

“On the basis of the SC directive my government has today given the approval for a broad scheme for the building of a grand and magnificent Ram temple at the birthplace of Lord Ram at Ayodhya and constituted an independent trust named Shri Ram Janambhoomi Teertha Kshetra to oversee its construction,” PM Modi said.

“This trust will be empowered to take independent decisions on the construction of the temple and other related subjects,” PM Modi said. The trust, which will have its registered office in Delhi, will have a representative from the Dalit community also.

The trust includes senior lawyer K Parasaran, Jagatguru Shankracharya, Jyothishpeethadheeshwar Swami Vasudevan and Saraswati Ji Maharaj from Allahabad, Jagatguru Madhavacharya Swami Vishwa Prasannatheerth Ji Maharaj, Pejawar Math in Udupi, Yugpurush Paramanand Ji Maharaj from Haridwar, Swami Govinddev Giri Ji Maharaj from Pune and Vimlendra Mohan Pratap Mishra from Ayodhya.

Two prominent Hindus will be nominated by the board of trustees with a majority resolution. One representative will be nominated by the Centre, who shall be a practising Hindu by religion, and a serving member of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and who shall not be below the rank of joint secretary to Government of India and shall be an ex-officio member.

One representative will be nominated by the UP government who shall be a practising Hindu and an IAS officer and not below the rank of secretary to the UP government and shall be an ex officio member.

The Ayodhya district collector will be the ex-officio trustee who shall be a practising Hindu. If for any reason the incumbent collector is not a practising Hindu, the additional collector of Ayodhya who shall be a practising Hindu shall be an ex-officio member. The chairman of the committee for the development and administration of matters relating to the Ram Temple complex, who will be appointed by the Board of Trustees, who shall be a practising Hindu, shall be an ex officio member.