Former Mumbai police commissioner Julio Ribeiro, former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and 41 other retired bureaucrats have demanded that Union minister Jayant Sinha be sacked for felicitating eight people convicted in a lynching case, saying his action shows "there is a licence to kill minorities".
Expressing happiness over their release from jail after being granted bail on June 29 this year by the Jharkhand High Court, Sinha garlanded them and offered them sweets.
"The larger and chilling message that Shri Sinha's action sends out is that there is a licence to kill minorities and that those who are accused of such crimes will be enthusiastically supported financially, legally and politically," the bureaucrats said in a public statement.
They said Sinha felicitated the convicts as if they were "some revolutionaries in a freedom struggle".
In the past, the bureaucrats said, when there were protests against partisan support for such revolting actions, the central government "conveniently used the fig leaf" of constitutional separation of powers to argue that the locus standi lay with the states concerned, despite most of these states being ruled by the BJP, which is also in power at the centre.
"Now that a Union minister has openly questioned a criminal case where his own party government in the state had, admirably in our opinion, prosecuted and brought to justice the accused, we would like to know what stand the Government of India proposes to take.
"We demand the immediate resignation/removal of Shri Jayant Sinha from the Council of Ministers and an apology to the people of India from the party he represents for brazenly sympathising with those convicted of murder," the bureaucrats said.
They also sought to know the stand the Union government proposes to take after Sinha's action.
"The latest episode comes on the heels of repeated incidents which highlight the contempt which representatives of the ruling party and their followers have for the rule of law," they said.
In April, the retired civil servants attacked the central government following the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua district of Jammu after a few state BJP lawmakers had come out in support of the accused in the case.
"In post-Independence India, this is our darkest hour and we find the response of our government, the leaders of our political parties inadequate and feeble," they had said then in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On March 21, a fast-track court sentenced the 11 convicts in the Ramgarh lynching case to life imprisonment.
Another secured bail on July 4.
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