Congress takes on Punjab speaker over Majithia video

Chandigarh, Jan 19 (IANS) The Congress in Punjab has got involved in an unlikely dispute with the state assembly speaker over the screening of a video clip in which Revenue Minister Bikram Singh Majithia is seen abusing a Congress legislator inside the house.

Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal had issued last month a gag order to the print and electronic media against writing about or airing the video clip. Expunging it from the assembly records, Atwal said that not following his order would amount to breach of privilege of the house.

The video, which has gone viral on the internet, shows Majithia, brother-in-law of Akali Dal president and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, using abusive language and expletives against Congress legislator and industrialist Rana Gurjeet Singh.

While the speaker suspended Rana after unruly scenes in the house Dec 19, no action was taken against Majithia.

But a defiant Congress is hardly in a mood to oblige the speaker. It has gone public by screening the Majithia video at various places, including in its public rallies, on giant screens.

Punjab Congress president and former chief minister Amarinder Singh said: "The Punjab assembly speaker's order of expunging it from the assembly records or banning its display is irrelevant as it is already in the public domain.

"Since it was broadcast live on news channels like PTC (owned by Sukhbir Badal) only with the speaker's permission, how can it now be expunged?"

The Congress is even questioning the speaker's "impartiality" on the issue.

"What Majithia said in the assembly was clearly audible. All the members present in the house, journalists in the media gallery and everybody heard what Majithia said and still he (the speaker) is claiming that he did not hear anything," Amarinder Singh said.

Atwal, a former deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha, is meanwhile consulting constitutional and legal experts on taking action against Congress leaders for screening the video. "I am consulting constitutional and legal experts," Atwal said.

But the Congress is not perturbed.

"He (the speaker) should better examine his own constitutional duty first. I ordered the screening of the video and none of the Congress MLAs should be held responsible for that. If you have any problems, you deal with me and do not harass my MLAs," Amarinder Singh said.

If the speaker did "not hear anything" why were the contents of the video clip expunged and Rana suspended, he asked.

"Before taking any such decision, it is the duty of the speaker to verify everything and convince himself about the decision he was taking," Amarinder Singh said.

"Why is he (speaker) not prepared to take any action against Majithia even when the whole world knows what he said. Just because you choose not to listen what Majithia said does not mean others should also be forced not to listen and see.

"He cannot escape his constitutional duty by volunteering to be ignorant about what happened very much in his presence," the Congress leader said.

Amarinder Singh accused the speaker of "deliberately feigning ignorance". "Majithia in some newspaper interviews admitted that he abused Rana Gurjeet on the floor of the house. How is it possible that the speaker did not get to read those newspapers," he added.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

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