Former Union Minister P. Chidambaram has sparked a fresh controversy saying “there were grave doubts” about the extent of Afzal Guru's involvement in 2001 Parliament attack and "was perhaps his case was not correctly decided.”
Chidambaram's observations come in the backdrop of ongoing JNU row, in which several students are under investigation in a sedation case for allegedly holding pro-Afzal Guru event and raising anti-India slogans.
"I think it is possible to hold an honest opinion that the Afzal Guru case was perhaps not correctly decided," he told Economic Times.
Chidambaram's comments has added more validity to the claims of JNU student Umar Khalid, who has been arrested in the sedation case and suspected to the key organizer of Afzal Guru event. Khalid had claimed that Afzal Guru was hanged based on “circumstantial evidence and to satisfy the collective conscience of the people.”
Chidambaram, meanwhile, disapproved of filing of sedation case against students and said sloganeering against the country was wrong, but one cannot be prosecuted for having an opinion.
“An independent person can hold an opinion that the case was not decided correctly,” he said. “Free speech is not seditious speech. Is your speech a spark in the powder keg (inciting violence) only then it amounts to sedition.”
The senior Congress leader opined the court will dismisses sedation charges in the first hearing itself.
Chidambaram did not distance himself from the then UPA government’s decision to prosecute and carry out execution of Afzal Guru in the terror case. He said that he would have done things differently had he been the home minister then.
Chidambaram served as the union home minister between 2008 and 2012 before he was assigned to head the finance ministry. Afzal Guru was hanged in 2013, when Sushil Kumar Shinde was the home minister.
"I would have done things differently if I was home minister then, but since I was a part of the government it's not right to distance myself from it," he was quoted by CNN IBN as saying.
Chidambaram, however, was Union Home minister when Afzal Guru's mercy plea was rejected by the previous UPA government in 2011.
Chidambaram opined that Afzal Guru could have been sentenced to life in prison without parole, instead of the capital punishment.
The Congress party on Thursday distanced itself from Chidambaram's remarks.
"The decision of the honourable Supreme Court in the Afzal Guru case is final and declaratory of law and justice in the case. It is futile to reopen this debate since the matter has attained judicial finality. Every citizen and instrumentality of the government is bound in law to accept the judgment of the final court," party spokesman Ashwani Kumar told reporters.
Kumar, also a senior advocate like Chidambaram, said that "Congress party accepts the SC judgment in the case as final and correct".
Replying to a question, he said the Supreme Court has itself said that "we are not infallible but we are final"