London: Leading British Indian MP Keith Vaz has slammed the decision of an Australian radio station to reward a presenter linked with the prank call that resulted in the death of an India-born nurse here last year.
Michael Christian was announced as a joint winner of the Southern Cross Austereo network`s internal competition to find the "best in the land".
"It is ludicrous that the company that employs this RJ, having faced such international condemnation, should have given the award to him," Vaz, chairman of the influential parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee who has also been acting as a spokesperson for Jacintha Saldanha`s family, said yesterday.
"It sends out completely the wrong message at the wrong time for the wrong reasons. It`s in very poor taste and frankly, it reflects very badly on the RJ for having accepted it but also on the company for giving it to him. The family are still grief-stricken and await the results of the inquest, which will resume in September," he added.
Radio jockey Christian and his colleague Mel Greig were co-hosting the 2Day FM show for the Australian radio station when they made the hoax call to King Edward VII`s Hospital in London last December.
They pretended to be Queen Elizabeth II and the Prince of Wales during the call to get more information on Prince William`s wife, Kate Middleton, who was being treated there for severe morning sickness.
Saldanha, who was on duty at the hospital switchboard, put the call through to a colleague who disclosed some details of the Duchess of Cambridge`s condition.
Three days later, the mother-of-two was found hanged in the nurses` accommodation and according to one of three suicide notes she left behind, blamed the RJs directly for her decision.
An inquest into her death has been adjourned and is set to resume on September 12.
Christian, who returned to the airwaves despite Greig still being on leave, said in a statement he was "thrilled" with the company`s award.
"From the start I felt like I had something to prove to myself, that regardless of all that`s happened in the past few months I`m still at the top of my game. So it felt good to see my name at the top of the final leader-board," he said.
However, Australian communications minister Stephen Conroy also criticised the award.
"There were some very serious consequences of what was a prank and to be seen to be rewarding people so soon after such an event, I think is just in bad taste," he said.
Christian and Greig had apologised for the prank call that went wrong following a global outcry.
Greig has also said she would fly to London to give evidence at Saldanha`s inquest.