The sexual harassment scandal, which rocked Orissa last week, claimed two key functionaries of the state on Monday. Speaker Maheswar Mohanty tendered his resignation after the police started a probe into his alleged role in the sexual harassment of a woman employee of the Orissa assembly.
Minister of State for Information and Public Relations Debasish Nayak lost his job for allegedly alleged conspiring to defame the Speaker.
Gayatri Panda, a woman marshal at the assembly had lodged a police complaint last week, alleging that the Speaker was persistently harassing her and even persuading her through his staff to have a sexual relationship with him. After the police started the investigation and interrogated alleged victim Panda on Monday, the Speaker, bowing to intense pressures from the Opposition and women’s groups, decided to quit. Mohanty handed over his resignation to the Deputy Speaker.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said, “I came to know that the Speaker tendered his resignation to uphold the dignity of the House”.
Patnaik on Monday recommended to the Governor that Nayak be removed from the council of ministers. “Ministers should enjoy the confidence of the chief minister. Since I have lost my confidence in Debashish Nayak, I recommended his removal”.
Nayak, like the Speaker, belongs to the Biju Janata Dal.
“The allegations against me are false and baseless,” Mohanty said after tendering his resignation “From the beginning, I have maintained that a House committee should probe the allegations against me. But a House committee could not be formed as I continued as Speaker. I have thus resigned on moral grounds so that a House committee can probe the allegations.”
Nayak, on the other hand, refused to speak to the media. Nayak’s role came to the fore after an Oriya news channel showed
visuals of Nayak’s official car at Panda’s village. Besides, a photograph of Nayak closeted with the Speaker’s Congress rival from Puri assembly constituency was published in an Oriya daily.
The meeting, the daily said, took place a day before Panda went public with her charges.