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Devbrat Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: Patnagarh BJP MLA Kanak Vardhan Singh Deo today resigned from the Privilege Committee of Odisha Assembly citing that the move of the Committee to summon Managing Director and Co-founder of Odisha Television Ltd, Jagi Mangat Panda, was to harass her for political reasons.

Singh Deo tendered his resignation from the Committee in a letter issued to Odisha Speaker Pradip Amat, who had constituted the Committee on Privileges for 2018-19.

In the letter, Singh Deo mentioned, "She (Jagi) is an established and reputed woman entrepreneur of the State. She has been humiliated and harassed publicly which shows the anti-woman attitude. Such action of the Chairman of the Committee (Pratap Jena) smacks of political vendetta. It is clear that she was summoned to be harassed for political reasons."

The Privilege Motion was brought by Congress MLA Tara Prasad Bahinipati on a factual news item telecast by OTV in November 2018. Bahinipati had stated that OTV Ltd. had breached the privilege of the House through its authorized persons and undermined the dignity of the House through a programme telecast on its TV channel.

However, Singh Deo said that Bahinipati had nowhere mentioned to summon the OTV MD.
"Nowhere had he (Bahinipati) mentioned that the Managing Director of the channel be summoned."

Singh Deo further asserted that there has never been a precedence where owners of media houses have been summoned but in this case, Jagi Panda was summoned, harassed & humiliated publicly.

"While the Speaker has the authority to constitute a Committee, there has never been precedence of summoning owners of the media houses. At best the Editors or Reporters have been summoned. But in this case Jagi Mangat Panda, Managing Director, OTV was summoned before the Privilege Committee," he stated in his letter.

"Under the circumstances it is untenable on my part to be a part of the Committee which should work independently and without bias. I hereby tender my resignation from the Committee which may please be accepted with immediate effect," Singh Deo stated.

Similarly, member of the Odisha Assembly Privilege committee for the same and Congress MLA Prafulla Majhi condemned the summon and said that the move seemed to be politically motivated.

What's more surprising was Bahinipati's reaction to the summoning of OTV MD who questioned, “Why was OTV MD Jagi Panda asked to appear before the Privilege Committee despite the fact that I had written to the Odisha Assembly secretary seeking withdrawal of the breach of privilege motion. It is extremely unfortunate.”

On Tuesday, former Chairman of Press Council of India and retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Markandey Katju had also termed the move of the Privilege Committee as ‘undemocratic’. “The leaders in Odisha are making a mountain out of a molehill. In a democracy, people have the right to criticise the government also,” he had said.

It is pertinent to mention here that Jagi Mangat Panda, had on Monday expressed her anguish after appearing before the Privilege Committee of Odisha Assembly. “I have been working in Odisha for the past 22 years and created more than 2000 jobs in Odisha. And for the first time today, as a woman entrepreneur, I feel extremely harassed,” Jagi said while speaking to media.

“Why I am saying this is we have never faced such situation in these 22 years. Even today, OTV is the most viewed news channel in Odisha and all of you know that. And yet OTV is being harassed, lots of hurdles being created and we are attacked from various fronts,” Panda had asserted.

On the agenda of the news channel, Jagi Panda clearly stated, "I want to say that OTV management doesn’t interfere in news and we are very proud of our journalists that they do a professional job and follow a written charter given by us. Here, very professionally news is covered.”

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