#MeToo: Congress defends Punjab minister Channi, says can’t act without written complaint
The Congress on Friday defended Punjab technical education minister Charanjit Singh Channi, who is in the eye of a storm for texting inappropriate messages to a woman IAS officer, with in-charge of party’s affairs in Punjab Asha Kumari and state chief Sunil Jakhar harping on the absence of a written complaint.
“Sending inappropriate messages cannot be compared with sexual harassment. Moreover, chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has already clarified that the issue was settled some weeks ago to the satisfaction of the officer. If the issue is settled, what action can the party take against the minister,” said Kumari, while talking to select media on the sidelines of party’s dharna outside Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) office in Chandigarh on Friday.
“Nobody knows what was the message...what was the medium and what actually happened...it’s different from harassment at workplace. The news reports are saying ‘objectionable messages’ were sent. Till somebody gives a written complaint , how can we conclude what the messages were about ,” said Kumari. “I tried to contact Channi, but his phone is not reachable,” she said.
“As the CM has already made a statement and the minister has clarified that the message was sent inadvertently, the matter stands closed,” she said.
Channi, who is on an official visit to United Kingdom, had stated that text from his phone was inadvertently sent to the officer and the issue was settled a month ago after he apologised to her. He termed raking up of the “small and settled issue” as a political conspiracy.
When pointed out that why the officer would complain to the Congress party when she has already complained to the chief minister, Kumari said, in that case, the party can only take action if the chief minister informs them. “Let me clarify that if any such complaint comes to us, we will deal with it strictly,” she said contradicting a few reports that the Congress president Rahul Gandhi was aware of the incident.
On the other hand, Jakhar said if the party receives a complaint, action will be taken “as there cannot be different sets of propriety or conduct and the Congress fully believes in dignity of all, particularly the women”.
“As of now, the party is not aware about the issue. And both the CM and the minister were on foreign tours. What the party can do in such a scenario,” said Jakhar.
The minister’s conduct was brought to the notice of the state authorities by the IAS officer who complained to a senior functionary of the government about a month ago and then the matter reached chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh.