The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Party and profession dilemma

New Delhi, Aug. 22: Sonia Gandhi is faced with an unsavoury controversy, with former Youth Congress chief M.S. Bitta accusing party MP Kapil Sibal of “shielding” a terrorist and Sibal arguing that he was merely making a “point of law” on death sentence.

Bitta claims that Sibal has appeared on behalf of Devender Pal Singh, facing a death sentence for a bomb blast on September 11, 1993. The then Youth Congress chief had a miraculous escape but eight persons were killed in the blast.

“Kapil is arguing on the behalf of the dreaded militant that his conviction should be converted into life imprisonment. How can a Congress MP do that' Instead of saving my life, Kapil is shielding those who tried to eliminate me. I wonder why the Congress leadership is watching it in stoic silence,” he said.

Bitta said he had “information” that terrorists hiding in Canada, the US and the UK were still plotting to eliminate him. “Here is my colleague in the Congress who is providing them with oxygen. I want to ask Sonia Gandhi what is she doing about it' I have approached Sonia, Ambika Soni, Natwar Singh and others but so far, nobody has come to my rescue,” he added bitterly.

Sibal denied Bitta’s allegation. “At no point did I defend Devender Pal Singh. His conviction was a 2-1 split verdict, with one Supreme Court judge acquitting him and the other two holding him guilty. At this point of law, I have a legal view that since death sentence is applicable to the rarest of rare case, the petitioner’s plea should be considered as it was split verdict.”

The MP said it was “utter rubbish” to link his views to politics. Even in the Rajiv Gandhi murder case, Sonia had appealed to the President to convert the death sentence of one of the accused, Nalini, into life imprisonment, he added.

Bitta is, however, unconvinced. “Do you think anyone in the BJP would have defended a militant' Ask Arun Jaitley. Will he be willing to defend Devender Pal Singh' I challenge that his answer would be a firm no.”

He said it was strange for a Congress MP to come to the “rescue” of a hardcore militant. “The Congress lost Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. I had thought the present leadership would be a lot more sensitive but I am disappointed. I have survived 14 death attempts. But now if Devender is let off, I do not think I will be 15th time lucky,” he said.

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