- Azam Khan's comments to BJP lawmaker Rama Devi triggered outrage
- This is an abominable act, appeal for exemplary action: Ms Sitharaman
- Speaker will take decision after meeting leaders of all parties
Samajwadi Party lawmaker Azam Khan was lacerated in parliament today for sexist comments that were reviled across the board by lawmakers from the government as well as opposition.
"This is an abominable act, I appeal to you for exemplary action," said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to Speaker Om Prakash Birla in the Lok Sabha.
The Speaker has called a meeting with leaders of all parties to decide on action against Azam Khan, a Samajwadi Party lawmaker from Uttar Pradesh.
Azam Khan, notorious for making offensive and misogynistic comments, had crossed the line yet again during a debate yesterday on a bill to criminalise Triple Talaq or instant divorce.
When the parliamentarian was bantering with a rival across the floor, BJP lawmaker Rama Devi, officiating as Speaker, asked him to address the Chair while making his point.
The Samajwadi lawmaker responded with out-of-line comments that were slammed as sexist and offensive and provoked shouts of "shame" from the government benches. The comments were expunged.
Later, the 70-year-old made an unsuccessful attempt at downplaying his offence.
Shockingly, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav defended him and was even seen grinning when Azam Khan first made the outrageous comments.
This morning, several lawmakers, including four union ministers, said such comments cannot go unpunished.
"The entire nation watched what happened...This is a blot on all legislators including men. We cannot remain silent spectators to it. We have to speak in one voice that this is unacceptable," said Union Minister Smriti Irani.
"This is not a House where men come in and 'Kisi aurat ki aankhon mein jhanka jaye (look into the eyes of a woman)," she added, quoting Azam Khan.
Her colleague, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, said either Azam Khan should apologise or he should be suspended from the House. "The incident was painful. Rama Devi handled it with utmost dignity. We appeal for the toughest punishment, without compromise," said Mr Prasad.
Condemnation came even from the opposition benches. "I am the youngest MP and this is all a learning experience. But what happened yesterday, that cannot be part of my learning process. Apart from any political differences, nobody can stand in Parliament and tell a woman - 'look into my eyes and talk'. Speaker sir, all women here are expecting something big from you on this," said Trinamool Congress lawmaker Mimi Chakraborty, a first-timer.
DMK lawmaker Kanimozhi said Azam Khan's comments were the kind that "made women feel small".