Union minister Jayant Sinha on Thursday challenged Congress President Rahul Gandhi to a live debate on the Ramgarh lynching case.

The minister has faced criticism for garlanding eight men convicted of attacking and lynching cattle trader Alimuddin Ansari in Ramgarh area of Hazaribagh district of Jharkhand on June 27, 2017.

Gandhi had tweeted support for an online petition demanding that Sinha’s status as an alumnus of Harvard University be withdrawn. Sinha said Gandhi had attacked him on a “personal level”.

“If he thinks my personal conduct is ‘disgusting’, then let’s debate in a civilised manner,” Sinha tweeted on Thursday. “Let him [Gandhi] not hide behind his social media handles and practice shoot-and-scoot politics.”

Sinha also apologised for giving the impression that he supported vigilantism. “Those who commit vigilantism and break the law should be fully punished.”

On June 29, the Jharkhand High Court suspended the convicts’ life sentences. After walking out on bail, the convicts went straight to Sinha’s residence in Ranchi, where he welcomed and garlanded them. The convicts were led by local Bharatiya Janata Party leader Amardeep Yadav.

Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren said Sinha’s action was “absolutely unbecoming of a Union minister” while Sinha’s father, Yashwant Sinha, said he did not approve of his son’s action.