Calcutta, July 19: Trinamul Congress legislators today hurled eggs at the Speaker’s chair and tried to prevent him from taking seat, protesting against a bill that proposes settlement of civil disputes before they reach court.
Some Trinamul MLAs surrounded law minister Nisith Adhikary and shoved him as others overturned tables in the well meant for reporters and officials. In a scene reminiscent of violence in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, where several members have criminal backgrounds, Opposition members hurled chairs towards the treasury benches. Adhikary lost his spectacles in the melee.
Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim, who was forced to adjourn the House for half-an-hour, called it “a dark day for democracy”. He said this was the first time the Speaker was “physically prevented” from taking his seat. “Democracy was at peril today,” Halim said, adding that he would soon call an all-party meeting to discuss the issue.
Trinamul MLAs walked out when the House reassembled after adjournment. Shouting slogans, they marched out of the House. Thirty-seven MLAs courted arrest near Raj Bhavan.
In the morning, Trinamul legislator Ashok Deb pushed school education minister Kanti Biswas after the Speaker allowed Left Front chief whip Rabin Deb to initiate a discussion on the Kumbakonam tragedy.
The Opposition members denied Deb an opportunity to speak. The angry CPM MLA was then seen running inside the House with the mace. The Speaker condemned the incident.
The controversial West Bengal Block Level Pre-litigation Conciliation Bill, 2004 was to be tabled in the House in the second half. The legislation is aimed at easing the pressure on courts, which are choked with cases, by settling disputes at the grass-root level.
Minutes before the House was to resume after the recess, at 2 pm, Trinamul MLAs wearing black badges and carrying black flags and placards calling the legislation a ‘black law’ surrounded the Speaker’s chair.
As Adhikary entered the House, slogan-shouting Trinamul MLAs, including Deb, Sonali Guha, Kalyan Banerjee, Subrata Bakshi, Jyotipriya Mullick and Gobinda Naskar, put a black cloth garland on him.
Adhikary was pushed around even as MLAs armed with eggs and paper balls targeted Halim’s chair. Most eggs landed on the curtains behind but two on tables occupied by the Assembly officials. Some MLAs smashed lamps on the Speaker’s table and damaged microphones.
When Halim entered the House, a group of Trinamul MLAs surrounded him. The Speaker had to take the marshal’s help to make his way.
Senior Trinamul members, including leader of the Opposition Pankaj Banerjee, city mayor Subrata Mukherjee, Saugata Roy and Ambika Banerjee, remained stuck to their seats as the rest launched the attack.
In their bid to rescue Adhikary and Halim, CPM legislators, including ministers Kanti Ganguly and Anisur Rahman, charged towards the Trinamul members and almost came to blows.
When Adhikary finally introduced the bill, the Speaker referred it to a standing committee for scrutiny and adjourned the House. Congress MLAs, who were seated during the turmoil, walked out in protest against the bill when the House sat after the adjournment.