At a time when a controversial event organised by a group of Jawaharlal Nehru University students in support of executed terrorist Afzal Guru has unleashed a political storm in the country, former home minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has raised serious doubts over the degree of his involvement in the 2001 Parliament attacks.
In an interview, published on Thursday, to The Economic Times, Chidamabaram had said, "I think it is possible to hold an honest opinion that the Afzal Guru case was perhaps not correctly decided."
Chidambaram added and that there were "grave doubts about the extent of his (Guru’s) involvement" in the 2001 Parliament attack.
The veteran Congressman was responding to a question on whether the courts had reached the correct conclusions in the Afzal case and also whether execution was the appropriate penalty.
"I think it is possible to hold an honest opinion that the Afzal Guru case was perhaps not correctly decided," he said while adding, "Being in government you cannot say the court has decided the case wrongly because it was the government that prosecuted him.”
“But an independent person can hold an opinion that the case was not decided correctly," Chidambaram said adding that it is wrong to project that anyone who holds that opinion is anti-nation.
Chidambaram was home minister from 2008 to 2012, before being switched to finance.
Guru, who was found guilty of involvement in the attack on Parliament in 2001, was executed in 2013.
"There were grave doubts about his involvement (in the conspiracy behind the attack on Parliament and even if he was involved, there were grave doubts about the extent of his involvement. He could have been imprisoned for life without parole for rest of his natural life," Chidambaram said.
Terming the sedition charges against JNU students as "outrageous", the veteran Congress leader said the court will throw out those charges at the first hearing.
"Free speech is not seditious speech. Is your speech a spark in the powder keg (inciting violence) only then it amounts to sedition," he said.
Chidambaram also said the anti-national slogans allegedly chanted on the JNU campus earlier this month did not amount to sedition.
"It is an age where students have the right to be wrong. And the university is a place where you don't always need to be profound, you can be ridiculous also," he said.
When reminded that was part of the same government that executed Guru, Chidambaram replied: "That is true, but I was not the home minister then...I can't say what I would have done. It is only when you sitting on that seat you take that decision."