Garlanding row: Sinha says followed due process of law

Garlanding row: Sinha says followed due process of law

Facing flak after felicitating eight men held guilty of killing a meat trader in the name of cow protection, Union Minister Jayant Sinha on Saturday said all that he was doing was  "honouring the due process of law" and insisted that the High Court had suspended the life sentence of the accused.

Sinha while maintaining that he condemned violence and rejected vigilantism also reminded that he has repeatedly expressed his "misgivings" about the Fast-Track Court judgement sentencing each accused to life imprisonment. 

A political row broke out after Sinha, a Lok Sabha MP from Hazaribagh in Ranchi on Thursday felicitated at his home some of the persons, who were accused of dragging a meat trader Alimuddin Ansari out of his car and beating him to death in Ramgarh in Ranchi in June last year.  The video of Sinha garlanding the accused went viral.

The mob had accused Ansari of carrying beef. After the outrage, a massive manhunt was launched last year and consequently, eleven people, including a local BJP leader, were arrested and later convicted for live by a fast track court in Jharkhand. However, the Ranchi High Court later suspended their life sentence. 

Eight of the accused were granted bail by the Ranchi High Court last Friday on the grounds of having no substantial evidence against them. They had come to meet Sinha after getting bail.
Sinha's act invited condemnation from Opposition leaders.

Launching a Twitter campaign on the issue, Congress said acerbically, "it is only in 'New India', where those who are supposed to get the noose are instead being garlanded" and sought to flag the difference in "what they say" and "what they do".

Citing a news report, it also linked mob lynching to unemployment and tweeted, "Stark parallels have been drawn which show that most of the people turning into murderous lynch mobs are unemployed. We need jobs, not mobs, Modiji."

CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury said, "We don’t need to look far to see who or which ideology is tearing our social fabric apart: when union ministers patronise those convicted of lynching,"

Former Jharkhand Chief Minister and JMM leader Hemant Soren was acerbic. "This is truly despicable. @Harvard Your alumnus @jayantsinha  felicitating the accused in cow related lynching death in India. Is this what @Harvard stands for?," he tweeted.

Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan said, "Jayant Sinha hugs & garlands Ramgarh lynching convicts as they come out on bail! Obviously, the junior Minister is keen to remain in the good books of his bosses Modi/Shah who patronise these lumpen thugs."

Responding to the outrage, Sinha took to Twitter on Saturday saying he has full faith in our judicial system and the rule of law and debunked the criticism.

"Unfortunately, irresponsible statements are being made about my actions when all that I am doing is honouring the due process of law," Sinha said on Twitter.

"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," he said.

Maintaining that those that are innocent will be spared and the guilty will be appropriately punished, Sinha, however, significantly said he has repeatedly expressed his "misgivings about the Fast-Track Court judgement sentencing each accused to life imprisonment" and said he was "pleased" that the High Court will hear the matter as a statutory court of appeal to "test the correctness" of the Fast-Track Court order.

"In the Ramgarh case, the Hon'ble Ranchi High Court, which is the first court of appeal, has suspended the sentence of the accused and released them on bail while admitting their case. The case will once again be re-heard," he said.

The controversy had come at a time when the Supreme Court is hearing petitions related to cow vigilantism.  The SC had on Tuesday reminded the states that it was their responsibility to check cow vigilantism

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