Uproar in Bihar assembly, Modi attacks Katju

Uproar in Bihar assembly, Modi attacks Katju

Attacking Press Council of India (PCI) Chairman Markandeya Katju, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister S K Modi today said the Centre should consider whether to continue with the PCI chief who is ''shrouded in controversies'', as the issue of Katju's remarks alleging undermining of press freedom under Nitish Kumar rocked the state Assembly.

Shouting anti-government slogans demanding freedom of press in Bihar after the Speaker rejected an adjournment notice moved by an opposition RJD member demanding discussion on Katju's Friday remarks, MLAs of Lalu Prasad's party, supported by Congress and LJP colleagues, tried to disrupt the question hour and later walked out of the House.

The MLAs returned after some time but heated exchanges followed between the treasury and opposition benches.

Soon after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar entered the house, the Deputy Chief Minister said, "Katju is in the habit of visiting states and make controversial remarks to hog the headlines... we don't approve it."

"I think the Centre should consider as to whether it wants to continue a person holding such a high position who has been always involved in making controversial remarks and is rather shrouded in controversies," Modi demanded.

Opposition members stood up in protest while Leader of Opposition Abdul Bari Siddiqui slammed Modi for his "unsavoury remarks".

Siddiqui claimed since Katju was holding a constitutional post, Modi by way of commenting against Katju as one who stirred controversies had violated its very spirit."They are not the persons who have ever tried to uphold constitutional dignity and prestige," Siddiqui alleged apparently referring to the BJP.

To this, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vijendra Prasad Yadav reacted sharply and said the opposition wanted it should have all the rights in its hands to slam the government. 

"Katju has not made any comment and simply spoken about constitution of a committee to probe the feeds he had received.... Everybody knows here that the state government has not brought any bill or legislation to gag the media.... The opposition should have waited for the report of the probe panel constituted by Katju," Yadav said.

"Everybody knows what the RJD had done in past... even its Chief Minister had once upon a time made objectionable remarks against former governor S S Bhandari," he said.

"Before jumping the gun, Siddiqui and other RJD MLAs should remember what they did when Governor Devanand Konwar, the hightest constitutional institution in Bihar, wished to address the joint sitting of both the houses of the state legislature," he said.

"The opposition, including its members like Raghvendra Singh and others described the governor as a man of ruling party.... What had the constitutional propriety demanded at that time," Yadav said.

Modi said, "Siddiqui should know it first that the PCI is not a constitutional body... it is just 'vaidhanik' (legislative) institution."

"I have simply said that a person holding such a high position should refrain from making controversial remarks," Modi said.

"But Katju, as per information we have, had once spoke something aganst Maharashtra government, and then even had gone to the extent of talking about dismissal of Maharashtra government," he said.

Siddiqui said "we, all the RJD MLAs, are walking out of the house in protest against Modi's statement."

Katju had targeted the Bihar government alleging the media in this state was harassed if it wrote against the government.

He had said the information he had gathered about the media in Bihar is "not good" and reminded the Nitish Kumar government that its alleged action against the press was a violation of the Constitution.

A three-member PCI team would be sent to Bihar soon for an investigation, the PCI chief had said during an interaction session at the Senate Hall in Patna University.