Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma has come under fire for his insensitive comments on peasants’ leader-turned politician Akhil Gogoi’s mental health.

Chief Minister Sarma in his speech in the Assembly on Monday said that Akhil Gogoi is mentally unfit to attend the Assembly session.

“Akhil Gogoi has been undergoing treatment at GMCH for the last four months due to his mental illness. How can a person like him be allowed to attend the Assembly session,” CM Sarma said.

Gogoi, who had won Assembly polls from the Sivasagar constituency, on Friday, took oath as an MLA in the Assam Assembly after a National Investigation Agency (NIA) court allowed him to do so.

The newly elected jailed MLA had sought permission from the Speaker to attend the remaining two days of the Assembly session but his plea was rejected by the Speaker.

“We were asked by the Speaker to respond. We have told the Speaker that no sick person can be allowed to attend the House,” chief minister Sarma said.

Sarma’s remark drew the ire of many social media users, who dubbed the comment as “irresponsible and insensitive”.

“If the chief minister can make such irresponsible comment on the floor of the House on an elected legislator, it is absolutely clear that there is no sanctity of the House,” said a Facebook user.

“What chief minister Sarma said on Akhil Gogoi is absolutely wrong,” he said.

“We do not know what treatment is being given to Akhil Gogoi. That is a purely confidential matter between the patient and the physician. If for whatever reason, Akhil Gogoi is undergoing treatment for “mental illness” as the chief minister pointed out, it is unethical to make it public,” said senior advocate Santanu Borthakur in a Facebook post.

“Patients’ privacy is protected due to the social stigma associated with mental illness. Article 23 of the Mental Health Care Act says there can be no public discussion about any mental illness. By making such loose comments, the chief minister proved that he is not at all sensitive. Such comments do not suit his status.  We hope that the chief minister will sensitize himself by reading on this subject,” he said.

Guwahati-based senior journalist Sushanta Talukdar said that he has never seen a chief minister making such “indecent and insensitive” remarks on a member of the Assam Legislative Assembly in his absence.

“It is also a matter of concern how the legislators who have been roaring at such insensitive remarks will preserve the dignity of the Legislative Assembly,” Talukdar said in a Facebook post.

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