Sexual harassment against Orissa Speaker

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Bhubaneswar, Mar 26: The allegation of sexual harassment against Speaker Maheswar Mohanty by Orissa Assembly Assistant Marshal Gayatri Panda today saw the House adjourned for the day after series of adjournments without transacting any business.

The House was first adjourned at 1042 hours after the Speaker made a statement describing the allegation levelled against him by the woman employee as ''false and baseless'' and said there had been a 'deep conspiracy' against him hatched by several influential and important people. An inquiry should be ordered into the incident to bring out the truth, the Speaker said and suggested that the House Committee be constituted to probe into the matter. Mr Mohanty said he was prepared to depose before the House Committee, adding he felt it would be not proper in his part to sit and preside over the House till the truth was out.

Deputy Speaker Prahallad Dora, who replaced the Speaker to conduct the business of the House, however, could not proceed with the business as the members from both Opposition and Treasury bench insisted that the House be adjourned first and the matter be discussed in the Speaker's chamber as it involved the dignity of the House.

Mr Dora first adjourned the House for 30 minutes and then went on announcing series of adjournments both during the pre-lunch and post -lunch session.

The House was finally adjourned for the day at 1800 hours without conducting any business.
The Opposition demanded that leaders of all political parties must sit and discuss the issue and accordingly a meeting was convened but Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik did not turn up at the meeting. Mr Patnaik instead deputed Parliamentary Affairs Minister Raghunath Mohanty and Government Chief Whip Kishore Mohanty to represent him in the meeting.

However, the meeting failed to arrive at any conclusion as the Opposition demanded an impartial inquiry into the allegation and resignation of the Speaker to which the Treasury bench members did not agree.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik when contacted by the newsmen quipped, '' Let us wait as discussion in this regard is going on. '' Assembly Lady Marshal Gayatree Panda told a private TV channel here yesterday that she had been sexually harassed by the Speaker on many occasions.

Ms Panda said she had lodged a written complaint with the Assembly Secretary a month back and decided to talk to the media as no action was taken.

The lady marshal was suspended last year by the Speaker but was reinstated after furnishing a personal clarification on the showcause notice issued to her.

She was again suspended recently on the ground of indiscipline and dereliction of duty.

Meanwhile, 59 employees of the Assembly today protested and condemned the news report, which appeared in a section of the press and was telecast in electronic media quoting the lady marshal against the Speaker.

The employees in a letter addressed to the Speaker said the lady Marshal had in the past also made similar allegation against a retired Deputy Secretary of the Assembly and demanded a probe into the matter.

UNI

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