In a letter to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on 15th January, 2014, Shri Narendra Modi took a tough stance on Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde’s statement of wrongful arrests of minority youth, and strongly condemned his statement which could give out a wrong message about the country’s criminal justice system, while also having a demoralizing effect on the entire law enforcement machinery.
The Home Minister had earlier written – “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 one be released immediately but they should also be suitable compensated and rehabilitated to join the mainstream.”
Shri Modi attributed the Home Minister’s concern as a brazen and callous attempt to woo the minority community and that even the minority community will raise questions on the timing of such stetements. He further stated that the police and public order were state subjects with investigation being an integral part of it, and so, any wrongful and malafide arrest of a citizen, irrespective of his caste or community, should get the same redressal.
Condemning the Home Minister’s suggestion of setting up review or screening committees to assess the role of minority youths languishing in jails on terror charges without trial, Shri Modi urged the PM to intervene and advise the Home Minister not to direct his attention to only the minorities. He added that the Home Minister’s suggestion was against the constitutional principles and hit the ‘right to equality before law’. Shri Modi stated that a crime is a crime irrespective of the birth marks of the criminal, and that his religious beliefs could not determine the guilt or innocence.
Shri Modi also added that the proposed directive of 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, undertrial prisoners will end up being under incarceration for longer periods; thus achieving exactly the opposite of the purported objective,” wrote Shri Modi.
Shri Modi suggested that the Home Minister should find a solution within the constitutional framework, while mentioning that an acceptable solution would be to fast track all terror cases. He said that this would have the benefit of convicting and punishing the real perpetrators of terrorism while acquitting the innocent people in a timeframe. Shri Modi added that this approach would strengthen our fight against terror and take care of genuine cases of wrongful arrests, while also ensuring “Justice to all, Appeasement to none”.
Shri Modi also stated that the Home Minister should, instead, focus on monitoring the terror cases being investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). “It would be interesting to know how many innocent youth 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,” Shri Modi mentioned in the letter.
Shri Modi said that the Home Minister’s public statement, without the backing of reliable data, was highly undesirable. Stating Article 44 of the Constitution, which mentions, ‘The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India’, Shri Modi said that we had not made much headway in having a common civil code. However, he spoke highly of the existing common criminal procedure code that did not take into account the faith or religion of an accused.
Shri Modi strongly voiced his displeasure by saying that the Home Minister’s suggestion was unprecedented and marked a new low for the country, while adding that the principles at stake were far too valuable to be sacrificed at the altar of political expediency.
Shri Modi urged the PM to intervene and take necessary action as deemed appropriate.