New Delhi, July 10: Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday supported a petition against Union minister Jayant Sinha that sought withdrawal of his Harvard alumni status for felicitating seven cow vigilantes after they were released on bail.

“If the sight of a highly educated MP and Central Minister, Jayant Sinha, garlanding and honouring criminals convicted of lynching an innocent man, fills you with disgust, click on the link and support this petition,” Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet.

The petition to the President of Harvard University, Boston, has condemned the minister’s action, saying it “has shocked the nation and brought disrepute to the institution”.

Sinha has been at the centre of a row after he garlanded the lynching convicts at his residence in Hazaribagh in Jharkhand after they came out of prison on bail last week.

The opposition parties led by the Congress attacked him and the Modi government over the issue, saying that this act gives “a guarantee to” the perpetrators that they have the support and encouragement of the government.

Sinha, on his part, has claimed that he unequivocally condemns all acts of violence, and rejected any type of vigilantism.

“The rule of law is supreme in our constitutional democracy. Any unlawful acts, particularly, those that violate the rights of any citizen, should be punished with the full force of the law.

“I have full faith in our judicial system and the rule of law. Unfortunately, irresponsible statements are being made about my actions when all that I am doing is honouring the due process of law. Those that are innocent will be spared and the guilty will be appropriately punished,” he has said.

The minister has received flak from other quarters too. Former Mumbai police commissioner Julio Ribeiro, former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and 41 other retired bureaucrats have demanded that Sinha be sacked for felicitating the eight convicts.

In a public statement, the former civil servants said the message Sinha’s action sends out is that “there is a licence to kill minorities” and people accused of such crimes will be “enthusiastically supported financially, legally and politically”.

(With PTI inputs)