Orissa speaker resigns over sexual harassment charge

March 31st, 2008 - 6:53 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead)

Bhubaneswar, March 31 (IANS) Orissa Speaker Maheswar Mohanty resigned Monday after a women employee of the state’s legislative assembly accused him of sexual harassment. Gayatri Panda, 29, a woman marshal of Orissa assembly, had last Thursday filed a police complaint against Mohanty. On Saturday, police booked the speaker after a written complaint from Panda.

“I have resigned because I want a smooth inquiry (into the case),” Mohanty told reporters after submitting his resignation to Deputy Speaker Prahlad Dora.

The speaker’s resignation came in the wake of statewide protests by women activists and the opposition Congress demanding his ouster. However, the ruling coalition says it was a conspiracy against the speaker.

Chief Minister Navin Patnaik sacked one of his cabinet colleagues for his alleged role in the “conspiracy” against the speaker.

Patnaik alleged Sports Minister Debashish Naik was involved in conspiring against Mohanty.

“I have lost confidence and trust in him (Naik). He may please be removed from the state cabinet with immediate effect,” the chief minister wrote to Governor Muralidhar Chandrakant Bhandare.

The issue of alleged sexual harassment of Panda rocked the state legislative assembly last week. Leaders from opposition parties met the governor Friday.

Panda, who was recently suspended on charges of negligence of duty, had alleged in her complaint that Mohanty harassed her after she refused to provide sexual favours.

“I have been working in the assembly since 2001 but I have never faced such humiliation. Mohanty wanted sexual favours from me. When I did not show interest, he started taking vindictive action against me,” Panda had said.

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