Imagine this: A catches B on camera doing something illicit, B cries foul, C says A had no business to catch B in the act and decides to prosecute A. C also decides that cameras being carriers of germs, such as truth, also decides to ban entry of both A and cameras to the venue.
The ‘act’? That goes not acted upon.
This would have been hilarious in the mode of genuine farce, with possibilities of a great film script, had it not been an issue with such possibly tragic consequences. In Karnataka, not long ago a state stated to be India’s answer to Silicon Valley, all characters in this plot, barring an astonished A, seem to be enacting the famed Mahabharata scene from that hilarious farce made three decades ago: Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron.
We are, of course, talking about the three honourable ministers who were caught watching porn inside the Assembly not long ago. It appears the government of Sadananda Gowda is hell-bent on saving its ministers at any cost, as rumors are doing the rounds that the Karnataka Assembly is contemplating curbing the entry of private channels in the Assembly, a la Parliament, where only Doordarshan’s obsequious cameras are given entry.
In a classic case of shooting the messenger, the committee set up by the Assembly Speaker to probe the scandal has decided to go after the TV channel that caught the MLAs in the act. The panel wants to know why the channel recorded obscene footage. The channel has also been asked whether, by bringing to public notice what elected public representatives were doing at working hours inside the Assembly, it has violated the Karnataka Vidhan Sabha press gallery rules, as also the freedom of expression provisions since such content could “affect viewers”.
That’s not all: the panel has also asked the channel to explain what it was doing, recording what the ministers were doing, if its cameraperson was in the House to record the proceedings.
Here are some of the enlightening questions the editor of the Kannada TV channel, which telecast the clip, were asked by the inquiry commission:
- ”What is the purpose of your organisation when securing entrance into the Assembly?“
Answer: The purpose of any media organisation in the Assembly is to report the proceedings, and this channel did exactly that. They showed people exactly what was happening inside the Assembly; what the honourable Members of Legislative Assembly do inside the august House.
- Instead of recording the proceedings of the Assembly, your journalist forgot his primary duty and recorded indecent and unnecessary things. Is this correct? What was the intention behind this?
A: Excuse me, Sir, this was part of the proceedings of the Assembly. You are questioning the wrong party here.
- Without the Speaker’s permission, knowing that the visuals were unparliamentary, you have telecast it through the day. Is this right on your part?”
A: The media have access to the proceedings, so why do they have to take additional permission to broadcast anything?
- Don’t you know that what you have done is a violation of rules 6, 17 and 20 of the Karnataka Vidhan Sabha press gallery rules?
A: Pardon me, and which rules are you violating by defending such unparliamentary acts of your ministers?
- Showing these kinds of visuals could affect the viewers, so don’t you think you are violating the constitutional provision of freedom of expression?
A: Very true sir. Such gross footage shows us the reality of people we have voted for. We swear not to make the same mistake again.
This is simply amazing! I haven’t heard anything funnier than this — of course, other than the earlier mentioned Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron scene.
To make matters worse, it has now surfaced that more than 15 MLAs, including Opposition members, had watched the sleazy clippings that day. “We have definite information that more than 15 legislators saw those tapes inside the Assembly that day. They belong to all the three main parties (BJP, Congress and JD-S),” Nehru Olekar, one of the four BJP members of the inquiry committee, has told reporters.
No wonder no party is questioning the state government’s bizarre decision of targeting the media.
As a citizen, I have some simple questions for the ‘prosecutors’:
- Mr Chief Minister, what signals do you want to send through this hilarious persecution? That you are okay with your ministers (and MLAs) watching porn inside the Assembly as long as the public do not come to know about it?
- Or is it that you would rather save your ministers’ than your own face?
- When this scandal broke, you promised in front of the media that necessary action would be taken. What action has been taken so far? The ministers resigned after much pressure, even as they still maintained a moral high ground that they have done nothing unparliamentary.
- Why has your government or your party chosen not to even comment, forget about condemning it?
And now we hear the state government wants to ban private media channels from recording Assembly proceedings.
Any takers for turning this first-rate farce into 70-mm entertainment?