Calling it unconstitutional, BJP accuses Home Minister of trying to divide nation on communal lines

Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde has, in a letter to all Chief Ministers, asked them to ensure that no innocent Muslim youth is wrongfully detained in terror cases. He has favoured strict action against police officers indulging in such “mala fide” arrests.

The letter, released on Monday, has stirred yet another political controversy with the BJP accusing Mr. Shinde of “dividing the country on communal lines.”

“The Central government has received several representations alleging harassment of innocent Muslim youth by law enforcement agencies…Some of the minority youth have started feeling that they are deliberately targeted and deprived [of] their rights. The government has to ensure that no innocent person is subjected to undue harassment,” Mr. Shinde said in his letter.

Constitute special courts

Emphasising that the government is committed to combating terrorism in all forms, the Minister asked the States to constitute, in consultation with High Courts, special courts for speedy trial of these cases, and give priority to terror cases.

Mr. Shinde further said though ensuring zero tolerance against terrorism was a must; the law enforcement agencies should maintain communal and social harmony while dealing with terror cases.

Strict and prompt action should be taken against erring police officers where there are mala fide arrests of any member of minority community. The wrongfully arrested person should be released immediately and suitably compensated and rehabilitated to join the mainstream, he added.

The issue of alleged wrongful arrests is being repeatedly raised at various forums. While MPs have demanded clarifications on the same in Parliament, Minority Affairs Minister K. Rahman Khan had also written to Mr. Shinde expressing concern over “wrong arrests” of Muslim youths in terror cases. Mr. Khan also highlighted alleged misuse of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against minorities and called for special courts to ensure speedy trial of all terror cases.

Significantly, in May this year, the Centre set up 39 special courts under the National Investigation Act Act to take up terror-related cases.

BJP reaction

However, the BJP has strongly objected to Mr. Shinde’s letter, accusing him of acting against the Constitution and trying to divide the nation on communal lines. “If [Mr.] Shinde had issued the letter without associating the religion of the person, it would not have been an issue. Had he used the word ‘Indian of any religion,’ then it would have been better. Mr. Shinde should be sacked with immediate effect ,” BJP general secretary Rajiv Pratap Rudy told journalists here.

Asking Mr. Shinde to recall his oath of office in which one takes the pledge of serving without any bias to any religion, caste or creed, Mr. Rudy said he was either ignorant or forgotten the Constitution. He demanded immediate withdrawal of the “unconstitutional” letter to the Chief Ministers.

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