Parliamentary proceedings in ample space will ensure social distancing
If the current spate of corona pandemic goes unabated, then it is likely that both Houses of Parliament — Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha — may function from the Central Hall and that too on alternate days.
Well-placed sources said considering the need to maintain the social distancing norm, the Monsoon Session beginning next month will conduct its proceedings from the spacious Central Hall in a staggered manner and on a rotational basis. For instance, if the Lok Sabha meets on Monday then the Rajya Sabha will sit on Tuesday, in such a scenario, Parliament will function six days a week with three each for both the Houses.
Sources said the option of conducting Parliament sittings from the Central Hall is being worked upon. “This (Central Hall) is a bigger place which has a seating capacity of 776 members. While the Lok Sabha has 545 Members of Parliament (MP, Rajya Sabha has 250 MPs. While it will be easier to conduct the Upper House within the social distancing norms in the Central Hall, feasibility to accommodate all Lower House members while maintaining social distancing norms is being looked upon,” Parliament sources said.
A senior official said a separate SOP for the functioning of Parliament is also being deliberated.
The Central Hall for decades is being used for joint sittings of both the Houses addressed by President of India (twice annually) or any visiting dignitary. In normal days, the space is used by members of both the Houses to spend time and interact and is also a coveted place for journalists who have restricted access to the Central Hall where they are privileged to exchange greetings.
As per the Parliamentary rules, both the Houses should be convened at least once in six months after the President prorogues it. The last time when Parliament functioned was on March 23 after which the Centre imposed a complete national lockdown in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic. The Budget Session of Parliament which began on January 31 was supposed to end on April 2.
“The last Parliament was adjourned sine die on March 23 and we have time till September 22 to convene Parliament for the Monsoon Session. However this prerogative is with the Government of India when to begin its legislative business. We will be prepared to welcome the members and keep the democratic norms ahead,” sources privy to the development said.
The other option the Government and Parliament is also examining is to allow only half strength of each House on rotation basis and connect the remaining members through various virtual modes to the either House. Members will be able to present themselves on virtual screen mode and raise questions, discuss, participate all in normal functioning of the House.
“We just got to know that the United Kingdom Parliament conducted the proceedings in recent times through mix of virtual-real mode and it worked well,” sources added.
In order to corner the Narendra Modi Government on issues like handling of corona pandemic, labourers and migrants problem, the economic issue etc, the Opposition parties have been putting pressure on the Centre to call either a Special Parliament Session or an early Monsoon Session.
“We want to raise several issues and expose this Government on the floor of Parliament. Our constant demand is the Centre convene a Session at earliest and honour the democratic and social principles of our country and the Constitution above all,” said Congress national secretary Sanjiv Singh.
After much pressure, the first meeting of a parliamentary panel on Home headed by Rajya Sabha member Anand Sharma is scheduled on Wednesday. Top officials of the Union Home Ministry are scheduled to brief the panel members on corona related issues.
Monday, 01 June 2020 | Deepak Kumar Jha | New Delhi
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