It is not new for Orissa Legislative Assembly to face rambling over absence of officers in the gallery during debates; but the embarrassment it has been subjected to by warranting a Secretary to the Officers’ Gallery is unprecedented. Health Secretary Ms. Mina Gupta was alleged to have mismanaged the funds meant for campaign against AIDS and the media was galore with charges of corruption and misappropriation. An adjournment notice was admitted for discussion on December 9,2002 on the issue. From both the sides caustic remarks were unleashed against Ms. Gupta whose absence in the officers’ gallery was alleged to be deliberate. The Deputy Speaker of the House, in chair, expressed deep displeasure over this marked dereliction and directed that the secretary’s presence in the place meant for her must be a must before proceeding with the debate. Ms. Gupta surfaced only after that. In his reply to the debate, the Health Minister wanted the House to believe that the AIDS fund was not gone in corruption It had no convincing effect.
The Chair directed the Minister to come up with a factually correct statement. Bruised, Ms. Gupta and another lady IAS officer have fomented a question as to why must they remain present in the Gallery during debates in the House, when no statute has anywhere bound them for this. Such a ploy is simply sophomoric. The Legislative House runs not only on codified rules and procedures, but also on conventions and precedents. Officers remain present in the Gallery earmarked for them to assist the Minister in answering to the House as per practice and precedents. Being a part of the Executive, every officer is answerable to the Assembly, through, of course, the Minister. And, that entails their presence. Legislators have reacted to the rash reaction of the IAS lobby by planting as many as 64 privilege motions.