Dubbing as a “brazen attempt” to woo the minority community Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde’s remarks on minority youths in jails on terror charges, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said it marked a “new low” for the country.
He also asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to advise his cabinet colleague not to focus his attention on minorities alone as “principles at stake” could not be sacrificed “at the altar of political expediency”.
In a letter to Dr. Singh, the BJP’s prime ministerial contender said Mr. Shinde’s statement could send a wrong message about the country’s criminal justice system and have a demoralising effect on the law enforcement machinery.
“The Home Minister’s concern is a brazen and callous attempt to woo the minority community and even the minority community will raise questions on the timing of such statements,” Mr. Modi said.
“The suggestion (from Mr. Shinde) is unprecedented and marks a new low for the country.... the principles at stake are far too valuable to be sacrificed at the altar of political expediency,” he said.
The Gujarat Chief Minister said, “A crime is a crime irrespective of the birth marks of the criminal and his religious beliefs could not determine the guilt or innocence.”
Mr. Shinde had last week made a statement that he would write to all state governments to set up review or screening committees to assess the role of minority youths languishing in jails on terror charges without trial.
He said Mr. Shinde’s suggestion was against the constitutional principle of right to equality before law.
Mr. Modi also wrote that the suggestion was against the constitutional principle of right to equality before law.
Mr. Shinde had earlier written to all state governments including Gujarat that “strict and prompt action against erring police officers should be taken where there is malafide arrest of any member of minority community.
“Wrongfully arrested person should not only be released immediately but should also be suitably compensated and rehabilitated to join the mainstream”.
Mr. Modi said that the proposed directive for setting up review committees was against the provision of criminal law, which does not provide for any review committee for withdrawal of pending cases where charge sheets have been filed.
“One cannot rule out the possibility of the trials getting delayed due to such illegal action on the part of the state if the courts were to find fault with such interventions made on extraneous considerations. If this were to happen, under trial prisoners will end up being under incarceration for longer periods; thus achieving exactly the opposite of the purported objective,” Mr. Modi wrote.
The Gujarat Chief Minister said the Home Minister should find a solution within the constitutional framework, while suggesting an acceptable solution could be to fast-track all terror cases.
He also said Mr. Shinde should focus on monitoring the terror cases being investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
“It would be interesting to know how many innocent youths are found to be wrongly implicated in these cases. I hope the Home Minister understands that every case of acquittal need not be a case of wrongful arrest and false/malafide implication,” he said.