If the viewing of pornography by three prominent Bharatiya Janata Party Ministers during a session of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly on February 7 was not scandal enough, the report of the committee set up to investigate the incident is a disgraceful cover-up. Following public outrage at TV footage of the three poring over obscene videos during a discussion on drought, the Ministers resigned from the Cabinet and were suspended from the House. The House committee set up by the Speaker — and boycotted by a dissatisfied Opposition — placed its report before the Assembly on March 30, the last day of the budget session. The report is a model of obfuscation and disingenuous reasoning that unquestioningly accepts the weak clarifications made by the three BJP leaders, while overlooking the compelling evidence of the original videographic material. C.C. Patil, then Minister for Women and Child Welfare, known for his public admonishments of women who are sartorially “indecent,” claimed he was in discussion with Laxman Savadi on a district matter, when he saw the latter holding a mobile handset. Like a responsible legislator, he took the device from him and switched it off. The Committee has recommended his exoneration. Krishna Palemar claimed to have “accidentally” brought his mobile to the House and placed it on his desk. Mr. Savadi could therefore not have been using Mr. Palemar's mobile phone, the Committee reasoned, and recommended Mr. Palemar's exoneration too.

Mr. Savadi's dissembling was hard to endorse, even by a committee willing to be persuaded. While some obscene images could have popped up while browsing, he was actually concentrating on reading a government order, he explained. The committee accepted this, and concluded he did not watch the images “deliberately.” However, as he had “whole-heartedly” apologised, and promised not to carry his mobile to the House again, the committee recommended that he be let off with an admonishment. Having let off the errant Ministers, the Committee then trained its guns on the messenger. The TV channels that captured the sordid episode were upbraided for recording “other things” rather than the House proceedings. A channel that ran “separately and repeatedly” the original images downloaded from the internet was criticised. The telecast of the damning visuals violated the dignity of the Assembly, the committee concluded, and recommended that only government broadcasters be allowed to record House proceedings. For the scam-and-faction-riven BJP government, this sorry fig leaf to cover up yet another scandal will only deepen the existential crisis it is already so deeply mired in.

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