Facing disapproval from women lawmakers for comparing himself to a rape survivor, Karnataka Assembly Speaker Ramesh Kumar on Wednesday expunged his own remarks made in the House and said that he considered women like his mothers and sisters. He also sought pardon from them.
After the women MLAs, including Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy's wife Anitha Kumaraswamy, met him in his chamber and conveyed their disapproval, Kumar told the House that he had no intention to cause any pain to women members.
"I'm directing my office to expunge all the comments made circumstantially from the records. I am clarifying that I had no intention to cause any pain to any woman from the Chair...If anyone has felt so, kindly pardon me...All of you are like mothers and sisters. I have always respected you and continue to do so," the Speaker said.
Kumar had made the controversial remarks during an intervention on discussions on Tuesday over a SIT probe into an audio clip involving BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa in a purported conversation to lure a JD(S) MLA in his alleged attempt to topple the Congress-JDS government.
The Speaker's remarks had evoked guffaw from the members.
Pointing to repeated reference to a charge against him in the audio that he had been "booked" for Rs 50 crore for a favourable ruling in the case the ruling coalition MLAs resigned and the anti-defection law provisions are invoked against them, he had compared himself to a rape survivor having to undergo unabated questioning.
The Chief Minister has announced the Special Investigation Team to probe the audio episode, on the "advice" of the Speaker to "establish the truth", as his name has also been dragged with the charge that he had been "booked" for Rs 50 crore.
Besides Anitha Kumaraswamy, the other women MLAs who met the speaker are Anjali Nimbalkar, Roopa Kala Shashidhar, Kaneez Fatima, Lakshmi Hebbalkar, Sowmya Reddy and Vinisha Niro. They met Kumar after his comments and their silence on the issue drew criticism.
"Yesterday, during the proceeding circumstantially I had spoken about the situation of a rape victim and even more insult the victim has to undergo during inquiry and reason why laws made are getting destroyed," he said.
He said, "As I made this statement a few of them (MLAs) laughed and few in the media have termed it as causing disgrace to women. For the last two days, they (media) had not got any masala, they too have to lead life right, so they are doing this."
The Speaker said women MLAs came to him and said they had been conducting themselves respectfully in the House. They said they were being questioned for remaining silent while others were laughing.
"I understand their sentiments," he said, adding that one can escape from the gallows but not from the media and "let's empty the masala for them."
Earlier, speaking to the media, women MLAs cutting across party lines expressed their displeasure about the Speaker's comment Tuesday and said it could have been avoided.
BJP MLA Shashikala Jolle said: "His (Speaker) situation may be so because of the humiliation he is made to undergo because of repeated reference to charges, but the way it was put across was not right."
Another BJP MLA Roopali Naik said the comments were not right and "it looked as though it (victims' situation) was being taken lightly. Such comments should not have been made. We wanted to express displeasure immediately, but."
Nominated member Vinisha Niro sought to defend the Speaker saying he was drawing a parallel to the 'pain' he had been undergoing.
"He has complete respect for women, but he shouldn't have made those comments," she said.
Congress legislator Lakshmi Hebbalkar said, the Speaker did not intend to insult a woman, "but this (comments) should not have happened." Hebbalkar's lawmaker colleague Sowmya Reddy said, "I agree thatthe words shouldn't have been used. Rapes don't happen only on the woman, it happens also on men... Knowing him, I can say, he did not mean hurting anybody."