Opposition parties on Friday sought an apology from HRD minister Smriti Irani for reading out in Rajya Sabha "objectionable" comments made outside against a god, as she defended herself saying she was asked for proof of her statements against JNU students.
BJP members also hit back at the Congress saying the opposition party was raising the issue due to the criticism of its Vice President Rahul Gandhi over his visit to JNU.
As the House met for the day, Deputy Leader of Congress in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma raised a point of order saying the Constitution and rules do not permit anything to be raised in the House which is blasphemous and can hurt religious sentiments.
Irani, he said, had read out "insulting" comments made against Goddess Durga "verbatim" in the House hurting sentiments and sought a ruling from the Chair as to whether such comments made outside Parliament against any religious figure or a deity can be read out inside the House.
Members of other opposition parties also agreed with K C Tyagi of JD(U) demanding that Irani should unconditionally apologise for the comments read out by her.
Irani, however, remained unfazed by the criticism and asserted that she herself was a "practising hindu and a Durga worshipper".
The HRD minister also insisted that she had read out the comments from authenticated documents from JNU as she was repeatedly being asked to explain what was the evidence against students accused of anti-national acts, which some parties were giving respectability to.
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad then said it is a "very serious issue" and the "minister should apologise for what she said on Thursday."
Azad said there were campaigns against many religious figures but all this cannot be raised in the House.
Coming to his colleague’s defence, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi attacked Congress and other opposition parties saying it had become a pattern for them to seek a Short Duration Discussion, a couple of Calling Attention Motions and an apology in every session while showing no interest in legislative business.
He also said that Congress was raising the issue as its Vice President was criticised for supporting those indulging in activities against the nation.
As the two sides indulged in heated exchanges, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said there has been a tradition that nothing blasphemous or anything against any community will be raised in the House.
He assured members that he would go through the records and expunge anything blasphemous.