- Minister Jayant Sinha garlanded 8 men who killed meat trader in Jharkhand
- Mr Sinha said he condemned violence and rejected vigilantism
- In June 2017, meat trader killed by mob that accused him of carrying beef
Union Minister Jayant Sinha, who landed himself in a major controversy after felicitating the men held guilty of killing a meat trader in the name of cow protection, said in a series of tweets today that he was "honouring the due process of law".
Mr Sinha said he condemned violence and rejected vigilantism but has had "misgivings" about the fast-track court verdict sentencing all the accused to life imprisonment.
On June 30 last year, Alimuddin Ansari was dragged out of his car and beaten to death in Jharkhand's Ramgarh by a mob that accused him of carrying beef. Eleven people, including a local BJP leader, were arrested and convicted.
The life sentences of eight men have been suspended by the high court in Jharkhand.
Nityanand Mahto, 45, the local BJP leader was the first to be released.
This week, after seven more walked out of prison on bail and were taken to Mr Sinha's home on the outskirts of Hazaribagh on Tuesday. In photographs that emerged later, the minister is seen garlanding the convicts and posing with them for the camera.
Mr Sinha's political rivals have been unsparing in their attack on the union minister.
"This is despicable," Jharkhand's leader of opposition Hemant Soren tweeted in a stinging swipe. Congress leader Dr Ajoy Kumar lamented that the Harvard-educated minister, considered among the most educated in PM Narendra Modi's cabinet, was "openly" supporting people convicted for killing an innocent.
This morning, Mr Sinha responded to the backlash for the first time.
I unequivocally condemn all acts of violence and reject any type of vigilantism. The rule of law is supreme in our constitutional democracy. Any unlawful acts, particularly those that violate the rights of any citizen, should be punished with the full force of the law.- Jayant Sinha (@jayantsinha) July 7, 2018
I have full faith in our judicial system and the rule of law. Unfortunately, irresponsible statements are being made about my actions when all that I am doing is honoring the due process of law. Those that are innocent will be spared and the guilty will be appropriately punished.- Jayant Sinha (@jayantsinha) July 7, 2018
"I have full faith in our judicial system and the rule of law.
"Unfortunately, irresponsible statements are being made about my actions when all that I am doing is honouring the due process of law," he said.
"Those that are innocent will be spared and the guilty will be appropriately punished," Mr Sinha tweeted.
On his felicitating the seven men convicted of murder, Mr Sinha, according to news agency ANI, added: "When these people got bail, they came to my house; I wished them well."
This isn't the first time that Mr Sinha has questioned the police probe, and the fast track court's verdict.
After the trial court returned a guilty verdict in March, the minister, who represents Hazaribagh in parliament, demanded that the case be probed again by the federal agency, Central Bureau of Investigation.
He had then claimed to have studied "various facets" of the case. "I firmly believe that complete justice has not been done," the BJP's Lok Sabha member from Hazaribagh had said in April.
In its order suspending the life sentence of seven convicts, the high court had referred to the video of the violence presented in the trial court in which the seven men were only shown to be present in the mob.
"There is no allegation of any assault against them," the high court said, referring to the video that had been cited as evidence by the police.