Lakshmi Pandit surrenders her 'crown'

Lakshmi Pandit surrenders her 'crown'
Mumbai, Mar 31 (PTI) Capping three days of controversy over her marital status and age, winner of the Femina Miss India beauty pageant Lakshmi Pandit surrendered her crown saying she had given "incorrect" information about her marriage only to seek accommodation in the metropolis.

In an unexpected turn of events Pandit, a classical dancer who had won the runner's up title at the Saturday night beauty pageant organised by magazine Femina, voluntarily relinquished her crown saying she had erred by providing incorrent information on her marital status for seeking accommodation.

She, however, asserted she was umarried and the committe set up to probe the allegation about her marital status accepted her claim. A contestant in the pageant has to be unmarried.

"The committee has also accepted her decision to relinquish the crown", A P Parigi of Times Infotainment India Limited told reporters.

In an affidavit, handed over to the organisers and subsequently circulated to the media, Pandit said "I am unmarried till date." "I have never been through any ceremony either valid or invalid, whether civil, religious or tribal which is recognised as a marriage ceremony in any part of the world and I say that I am legally entitled to the use of the prefix `Miss' before my name", Pandit, who failed to turn up at the media conference, said in her affidavit.

Pandit claimed she had incorrectly mentioned that she had married Mishra because it was the "only basis" on which she could have acquired the rented premises on `lease and licence'.

She claimed she had however realised that such "incorrect representation" had "affected my credibility and tarnished my image".

"I did not realise that upon being a celebrity, incorrect statements made by me only for the purpose of getting accommodation in the aforesaid document would affect my image", Pandit said.

"I realise that by being declared a winner of Ponds Miss India World 2004, I am expected to maintain a decorum for being a role model for the youth of India".

"I do not desire to represent India at the Miss World Pageant.....because I do not rule out the possibility that the panel of judges at the Miss World Pageant considering my incorrect statement to be a criteria to disqualify me and thereby affecting the chances of India at the contest.

"With great personal regret, but with larger interest of India's image, I hereby abandon the title with immediate effect", Pandit said.

According to Parigi, the committee had accepted her decision and the "chapter was considered closed." "All rights over the said contestant and contractual obligations ended following her decision to relinquish the crown", he told said.

Reiterating that the decision to give up the crown was Pandit's own personal choice and a voluntary one, he said the committee would now deliberate on the re-ranking of the contestant following the new turn of events.

Reiterating that the entire selection process had been a transparent one, Parigi said the organisation had "respected the dignity of a woman and had hence not immediately rushed to any conclusion. Pandit had been very cooperative and had provided information sought".

To a query regarding Pandit's elimination from another leading pageant and incorrect information about her age, the official said he was not aware of such elimination.

"Moreover, the contract has ended now and there is no sense in continuing to explore the past", he said.

Parigi, however, refused to term the incident as a `learning experience' for the organisers.

"It is at best an aberration. We have contractual rules and systems of checks and balance in place for the past 40 years and a case like this was unfortunate. Such abberations are not particular to a beauty pageant. It happens in every field", he said.

He also maintained that the incident would not mean that the organisers would flout the dignity of woman to ensure her single status in forthcoming pageants.

Parigi dismissed apprehensions of the controversy affecting the country's chances at the World Pageant.

"The performance of past Indian contestants at the pageants has been highly successful, hence I have no reasons that such aberrations would affect India's chances", he said.

Meanwhile, Pandit in a statement to the press, admitted her dreams had crashed and the media scrutiny had taken its toll on her and her family. "The trauma and emotional upheaval" had prevented her from holding to the crown.

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