Union minister Jayant Sinha on Wednesday “expressed regret” after he faced severe criticism for garlanding eight men convicted of lynching a cattle trader in Jharkhand last year.

“I have said many times that the matter is still sub judice,” Sinha said, according to PTI. “It won’t be fair to talk on this. Law will take its own course. We have always worked towards punishing the guilty and sparing the innocent. If by garlanding them an impression has gone out that I support such vigilantism then I express regret over it.”

Sinha was criticised by the Opposition parties as well as his father, former Bharatiya Janata Party leader Yashwant Sinha. A group of 50 former civil servants even called for his resignation.

Last week, the minister of state for civil aviation defended his actions, saying he was “honouring due process of law”, while pointing out that the Jharkhand High Court had suspended the sentences of the convicts and released them on bail. He called the criticism from Opposition parties “irresponsible statements”. “Those that are innocent will be spared and guilty will be appropriately punished. I have full faith in our judiciary and rule of law,” he had said.

The men were convicted of attacking and lynching cattle trader Alimuddin Ansari in Ramgarh area of Hazaribagh district of Jharkhand on June 27, 2017. The Jharkhand High Court had suspended the convicts’ life sentences in June.