Scientist Stephen Hawking did not support the claims made by Union minister Harsh Vardhan that the Vedas have a theory superior to Albert Einstein’s E=mc^2 equation, a founding trustee of the Stephen Hawking Foundation told The Telegraph on Saturday.

“It is quite possible that he made a reference to the Vedas playfully when discussing creation myths – such as found in the Bible or the Vedas – when comparing them to the now conventional scientific picture of the big bang accompanied by a period of inflation, or perhaps when discussing the no-boundary proposal for the creation of the universe,” Malcolm Perry, who is also a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Cambridge, said. “I am certain that he did not support the claims made by your minister that Vedas might have a theory superior to Einstein’s theory of E=mc^2.”

On Friday, Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan had made the claim at the 105th Indian Science Congress at the Manipur University. Vardhan said Hawking, who died on Wednesday, “needs to be remembered [on the occasion]”. When questioned about the source of his claim, the minister asked reporters and to “work a bit on this” and question him in Delhi “if they failed in their research”.

Hawking’s friend, cosmologist, astrophysicist and astronomer Royal Professor Martin Rees also dismissed knowing any such theory. “I would not know anything about this,” Rees told The Telegraph.

Simon Singh, who studied physics at Imperial College London and did his PhD in particle physics from Cambridge University, said it is disheartening to see a science minister trying to “exploit the passing of a genius to falsely promote his own religious agenda”. He added that Vardhan as a science minister has little grasp over the subject.

Indian scientists also expressed their disappointment to The Telegraph. “It is tragic that ministers charged with overseeing the scientific progress of our country do not seem to have access to validated, verified sources they can quote when they want to make impactful statements,” Shuba Tule, professor in the department of biological sciences at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, told the daily.

Soumitro Banerjee, a professor of physics at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Calcutta, said India’s heritage is something to be proud of. “We have a rich tradition in ancient science and technology – but such claims are imaginary things,” he added.