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Parliament may meet in Sept for monsoon session

June 30, 2020 06:41 AM


Parliament may meet in Sept for monsoon session
Smriti Kak Ramachandran

NEW DELHI : In the absence of a workable model that will allow appropriate social distancing for members of Parliament (MPs) and their staff, there is a possibility that the forthcoming monsoon session of Parliament will not be held in July and could even be pushed to September, two people familiar with the decision-making process said on condition of anonymity.

Officials have considered the possibility of holding online sessions, where half the members will be seated in the House and the other half joins online, but this has been found untenable as it requires members to give consent on how they would want to join the session. They have also considered shifting the sessions of both houses to either other locations within the Parliament complex or outside, but this, too, has been ruled out because of the difficulties in implementing social distancing norms.

One of the two people, who has participated in meetings on the issue, said that since there is no pressing matter at hand, for instance, the passage of ordinance that will otherwise lapse, and since there is no immediate constitutional requirement to convene the session, there is a possibility that Parliament will convene once there is solution at hand for ensuring proper social distancing protocols.

“As per the Constitution, there is no specification of the number of days or the period during which Parliament should meet. As per Article 85, the only requirement is that gap between two sessions should not be more than six months. The last session was in March, which means we have time till September,” added this person.

The ordinances in effect at the moment also have a time-cushion before they lapse.

The Opposition has demanded that Parliament be convened to discuss important issues at hand including the stand-off with China and the coronavirus pandemic. Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla have also held several rounds of meetings to work out how Parliament can resume work even as the protocols for health and social distancing are not breached.

“There were many suggestions mooted such as using the central hall for convening the Lok Sabha and using the Lok Sabha hall for Rajya Sabha. However, all these have been found untenable...,” said the person quoted above.

Officials of both the houses had pointed out that logistical problems such as rearranging names on the computers.

The first person said that with the number of cases continuing to surge, it is imperative that the House functions only with the necessary protocol. “There were also suggestions to have the monsoon session in Vigyan Bhavan. That was explored too, but space and security constraints have made that untenable too...”.

The second person also said that several MPs had indicated that since the House has to only reconvene before September 23, the secretariats should be given more time to come up with a sustainable model that will ensure safety of the members, their staff and the security personnel.

Experts say that the government must do more to find a workable solution. “A session of the Andhra Pradesh legislature was recently held where the Governor gave his address by video conference. Media reports suggest that to ensure physical distancing between legislators, the Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Sabha might consider holding its next session in a large conference venue opposite the Vidhan Sabha building...,” said Chakshu Roy, Head of Legislative and Civic Engagement, PRS Legislative Research.

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