Opposition Congress on Sunday asked the Punjab chief minister not to "belittle" the office of the MLA as it fired a fresh salvo at him in the row which was triggered over the recent verbal duel between a legislator of the party and an SDM in Fatehgarh Sahib district.
Taking issue with chief minister Parkash Singh Badal's move to mark an inquiry into a matter involving an MLA to a commissioner-level officer, Congress said that only the Speaker can look into such cases and, "by assigning a parallel inquiry to the commissioner, Badal has apparently betrayed his lack of faith in the constitutional authority of the speaker".
Congress's deputy leader in Lok Sabha and former Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh asked Badal "not to set wrong precedents by belittling" the office of the MLA, who he said was an elected representative of the people and came above the chief secretary in standard government protocol.
"Or is it that you (Badal) have been bullied by some officers to mark such an inquiry as you often cry hoarse that they gang up to defend their erring colleagues," Amarinder said.
Badal had asked Patiala division commissioner Ajit Singh Pannu to conduct an inquiry into the "unsavoury incident" in which Fatehgarh Sahib MLA Kuljeet Singh Nagra had allegedly misbehaved and used foul language against SDM Pooja Syal Grewal.
Nagra and Grewal are said to have got into a war of words during a meeting at Sirhind Municipal Council office over an anti-encroachment drive.
The SDM had lodged a complaint in the matter against Nagra for allegedly using abusive language.
Nagra has, however, refuted the charges levelled at him by the SDM.
In a statement here, Amarinder expressed surprise that an inquiry was handed to the commissioner when the speaker of the Punjab Assembly was already seized of the matter and had summoned everybody involved in the case on Sept. 24.
"You have not only tried to belittle the institution of an MLA, but also tried to undermine the constitutional authority of the Speaker of the Vidhan Sabha," he said.
He said that besides the Speaker, there is the Privileges Committee of the House to which such matters can be referred but not to an official who is far too junior to an MLA in terms of protocol.
"Are you not the same CM who said only a few months ago that it was difficult to take any action against any of the erring officers as all of them gang up to defend their colleagues?" Amarinder further said.
"Should I conclude that they have ganged up and bullied you to mark an inquiry to the commissioner against an elected representative, forcing you to breach protocol," he added.
"It is not the issue of a Congress MLA but about the elected representatives of the people who may belong to any party," Amarinder asserted.
Meanwhile, leader of opposition in Punjab Assembly, Sunil Kumar Jakhar has called a Congress legislators' meeting here on Sept 23 to discuss the issue of "disrespect" shown to Nagra by an officer of Punjab government.
He said that following the meeting, a delegation of MLAs will meet the Speaker on the issue.
"Most of the MLAs are of the view that the SDM overstepped limits of protocol and has insulted the institution of MLA and shown utter disrespect to an elected representative. Instead of accepting the wrong committed, the officer is twisting the facts to escape reprimand," Jakhar said.