An allegation of sexual harassment levelled against Orissa Assembly Speaker Maheshwar Mohanty by a woman marshal led to the adjournment of the House twice after he sought an impartial inquiry into the charge.
As soon as the House assembled this morning, the speaker made a suo motu statement referring to media reports about charges of sexual harassment of a woman marshal of the assembly levelled against him and proposed setting up of a House Committee to probe the matter.
Terming the allegation as false and baseless, he said it was the fallout of actions initiated against indisciplined employees and also part of a "conspiracy in which important persons were involved".
Stating that it would be improper on his part to preside over the proceedings till the truth is inravelled, Mohanty left the chair, which was subsequently occupied by Deputy Speaker Prahallad Dora.
While terming the Speaker's action as a "dignified' move, Congress leader Narasingha Mishra said an inquiry into the matter was a must but probe by a House Committee would be meaningless.
Though Parliamentary Affairs Minister Raghunath Mohanty supported the Speaker's suggestion for a probe, Mishra and NCP's Arun Dey suggested adjournment of the House for holding discussion on the issue in the Speaker's chamber to decide the nature of any probe.
After Government Chief Whip Kishore Mohanty supported their proposal, the House was initially adjourned for 30 minutes and later till 1 PM.
Terming the allegation made against the Speaker as very serious, Narasingha Mishra said, "When such charges are levelled, the entire House stands condemned. I suggest that the House be adjourned for holding discussion on the matter in his chamber."
"I have no objection if the Speaker allows discussion on it in the house," but it would be proper to discuss the matter inside the chamber, he said adding that probe by a House Committee would be only to buy time. Observing that the dignity of the house was in question following the allegation, Arun Dey said the Chief Minister should make a statement on the issue.
"It was a terrible shock for me when I heard the Speaker saying that big people are involved" in a conspiracy to defame him, he said.