Opposition parties on Sunday slammed the Centre over garlanding of eight convicts in the Ramgarh lynching case by Union minister Jayant Sinha after they were released on bail, saying it has brought out the "real agenda" of the ruling BJP.
Senior Congress leader Ashok Gehlot said when BJP ministers are garlanding and supporting criminals, what more proof is required about the agenda of the BJP, which is no longer hidden.
"Does the PM have an answer to why BJP leaders are garlanding, meeting, supporting criminals, involved in mob lynchings, communal rioting? What more proof is required about BJP's agenda, which is not even hidden now," he said.
CPI-M leader Brinda Karata said it shows that the ruling dispensation is not interested in giving any kind of justice to the victims of lynchings.
"Now if a union minister gets photographed with them in his house and starts garlanding them, then it is very clear that the ruling regime in the country are not interested at all in giving justice to the lynched victims," she said.
The RJD also put out a picture of the minister with the accused after their garlanding on its official Twitter handle and said in Hindi that "After killing somebody by beating, the government will honour you...."
Sinha, however, later said he unequivocally condemns all acts of violence and rejected 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.
"In the Ramgarh case, the 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.
"I have repeatedly expressed my misgivings about the Fast-Track Court judgement sentencing each accused to life imprisonment. I am 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.
"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," he tweeted.
His father and former union minister Yashwant Sinha, in a tweet, said he did not approve of his son's act and said he was earlier 'nalayak' (worthless) father of a 'layak' (worthy) son, but it is the reverse now.
Congress spokesperson RPN Singh termed the incident as "horrific" and said on the one side the minister is garlanding the accused, on the other the government is claiming to put an end to lynchings.
"We see that the government is issuing advisory on the Whatsapp issue. These advisories just seem to be something which is passed on to the States when Ministers in the central government are actually congratulating or helping people who are allegedly involved with lynching. You can understand where this government is taking this country to," he said.
"What is the intention of this government. On one side Jayant Sinha honours them and on the other, this government talks of putting an end to lynchings," he said, adding that "we want to ask the prime minister as to what kind of security has he to offer to the women in the country".
Another Congress leader Pramod Tiwari said: "The minister is glorifying those accused of lynching. I feel that such an act by a central minister is a violation of the Constitution."
Sinha has stoked a controversy by felicitating the convicts, with opposition terming it a "despicable" and "unfortunate" act.
The minister later said it was unfortunate that irresponsible statements are being made about his action while all that he was doing was honouring the due process of law and that innocents be spared and guilty be appropriately punished.
Meat trader Alimuddin Ansari was beaten to death on June 29 last year by a mob at the Bazaar Tand area under Ramgarh police station on the suspicion that he was carrying beef in his car.
Expressing happiness over their release from jail after being granted bail by the Jharkhand High Court recently, Sinha garlanded them and offered them sweets.
The minister of state for civil aviation also advised them to "have faith in the judiciary", saying the courts will do justice.