Advocate General Bimal Chatterjee’s remark in the Calcutta High Court on Tuesday that the State Election Commission was behaving like “a beautiful lady, making this comment and that” evoked sharp criticism, not just from a lawyer representing it but also politicians and civil rights activists.

Counsel L.C. Bihani said the language used by Mr. Chatterjee was “unparliamentarily” and threatened to walk out in protest against “personal remarks” directed at officials of the Commission.

 Chief Justice Arun Mishra — who along with Justice Joymalya Bagchi was hearing the Commission’s application on security for the coming panchayat polls — intervened and urged Mr. Bihani to calm down. Mr. Chatterjee maintained that his remark was directed not at any individual but at the Commission. “It was not a personal remark… The arbitrary and whimsical demands of the Commission cannot be complied with by the State government... It was in this context I compared it with a beautiful lady.”  

Later, asked by journalists whether it was a sexist comment, Mr. Chatterjee replied: “Certainly not.” Asked whether his remark was directed at State Election Commissioner Mira Pande, he said: “Of course not; she is a respectable lady.”

 “We feel that the State Election Commission is nagging and there are beautiful nagging women as well… Even men can be nagging sometimes,” he added.

 Outside the court, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party demanded the resignation of Mr. Chatterjee, while senior CPI(M) leader Mohd. Salim said the remark was “sexist and irresponsible.” It “reflects the gender insensitivity of the person made at a time when the Chief Minister herself is a woman.”

 PCC chief Pradip Bhattacharya said: “The remarks made are unimaginable and disrespectful to women. He [Mr. Chatterjee] has no right to continue in his post.” Ritesh Tewari, spokesperson of the State BJP, also said, “He has no right to continue after making such objectionable comments against women.”

A former member of the State Women’s Commission, Bharati Mutsuddi, “Such a comment coming from the Advocate-General is highly deplorable and unacceptable.”