New Delhi: Lok Sabha members on Friday unanimously condemned Samajwadi Party member Azam Khan’s objectionable comment against BJP MP Rama Devi and demanded “exemplary” action against him. The Speaker promised to take a decision soon.
Participating in a discussion on the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019 on Thursday, Khan made a remark directed at Rama Devi, who was presiding over the House, drawing objections from the treasury benches.
Rama Devi, a member from Bihar’s Sheohar, herself objected to the sexist remark and ordered it be expunged from Parliament records.
Raising the matter during Zero Hour on Friday, BJP’s Sanghmitra Maurya said: “What happened in the House on Thursday was undignified. Azam Khan has to come to the House and apologize.”
Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani said she had never heard such comments in her seven year legislative career.
“The issue is not about women. The entire House was insulted. Let us not reduce it to a women problem. This is a blot on all legislators including men,” she said.
Irani said Parliament had already passed the law against sexual harassment at work place and insisted: “We cannot be mute spectators.”
She urged the parties to leave aside their political differences and send a unanimous message that “misbehaviour with a woman” would not be tolerated.
“If such misbehaviour had happened with a woman outside this House, she would have been helped by the police. By taking strict action against the MP (Azam Khan), this House should send a message outside that the privilege of Parliament cannot be misused.”
Union Minister Babul Supriyo said that though Khan’s remarks were expunged, TV channels had telecast them and the entire country had heard it.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also demanded that Khan, elected from Uttar Pradesh’s Rampur constituency, should apologize for his remarks or be suspended from the House.
Several other women members expressed unhappiness over Azam Khan’s remarks and asked the Speaker to take strict action against him.
NCP’s Supriya Sule said that the House must speak in one voice and set a precedent once and for all.
Actor-turned-politician and first-time MP Nusrat Jahan of TMC also condemned the comment and sought exemplary action against him.
Another first-time member, Mimi Chakraborty, said: “Speaker Sir, all women here are expecting something big from you on this.”
Responding, Speaker Om Birla said he will hold a meeting with leaders of all parties from both the treasury and opposition benches and then take a decision.
BJD member Bhartruhari Mahtab called Khan’s remarks “unpardonable” and sought exemplary action against him.
The Trinamool Congress, Janata Dal-United, Apna Dal and DMK members too backed the call.
Congress member Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the issue should be referred to the Ethics or Privileges Committee of the House.
He said action should be taken against anyone demeaning women and raised the issue of members using objectionable words against Congress leader Sonia Gandhi in the past.
However, this drew protests from the treasury benches who said the issue should not be politicized.
Chowdhury said the Privileges Committee of the Lok Sabha was empowered to take a decision in the matter.
Some other members, however, pointed out that since the Privileges Committee had not yet been formed in the newly constituted Lok Sabha, the power to take action against an erring member lay with the Speaker.