Samajwadi Party lawmaker Azam Khan will be asked to furnish his unconditional apology in parliament on Monday for sexist comments that were condemned by lawmakers across political lines today. "If he doesn't apologise, the Speaker has been authorized to take action against him," said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi after a meeting between the Speaker and leaders of all parties. The Speaker called the meeting after several lawmakers, including ministers, expressed outrage over Azam Khan's comments, and demanded exemplary action.
"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.
Azam Khan, a Samajwadi Party lawmaker from Uttar Pradesh, had made the remarks during a debate yesterday on a bill to criminalise Triple Talaq or instant divorce.
When BJP lawmaker Rama Devi, officiating as Speaker, asked him to address the Chair while making his point, he responded with comments that were so offensive that shouts of "shame" erupted in the house. The comments were expunged.
Later, the 70-year-old politician notorious for his misogynistic statements tried a weak clarification but it did nothing to lessen the rage of MPs. "Sister, I have had a long political career, it is not possible for me to say anything bad. If there is a single unparliamentary word in what I said, then I declare my resignation from parliament," he said to Rama Devi. But he didn't apologise.
Shockingly, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav was seen grinning when Azam Khan made the outrageous comments and he also insisted that there was nothing objectionable in what his party leader had said.
This morning, Azam Khan was denounced widely. Rama Devi has asked for his expulsion for five years.
"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 in the Lok Sabha.
"This is not a House where men come in and 'Kisi aurat ki aankhon mein jhanka jaye (look into the eyes of a woman)," added the furious minister.
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.
Even opposition lawmakers called for action. "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.
DMK lawmaker Kanimozhi said Azam Khan's comments were the kind that "made women feel small".