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Parliament Session May Be Cut Short as Covid-19 Cases Among MPs Rise, Consensus Emerges at BAC Meet

File photo of Parliament House.

File photo of Parliament House.

The Parliament met for the first time in six months on September 14 and was to function until October 1, but two officials said its duration could be reduced by a week.

The Monsoon Session of Parliament that began this week is likely to be cut short after 30 lawmakers tested positive for coronavirus, sources told CNN-News18. An urgent meeting of the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) was called by the Lok Sabha Speaker at 5pm to decide on the issue and consensus appeared to be emerging, with most lawmakers seeking to end the session next week.

MPs of many political parties have expressed their willingness to curtail the session amid the coronavirus pandemic. "We will ask for a curtailed session. We cannot risk lives," said representatives of a political party while heading for the meeting.

"There is a consensus on curtailing the Parliament session. We left it to the discretion of the Speaker while adjusting business of the house," said a participant after the meeting.

The Parliament met for the first time in six months on September 14 and was to function until October 1, but sources said its duration could be reduced by a week.

While the discussion on curtailing the session is on at various levels within the government and is said to have been demanded even by some opposition MPs, sources said the government is waiting to see through the passage of the contentious agriculture reforms bills in the Rajya Sabha on Sunday.

"If the opposition wants and demands, we can think about curtailing," a government source told CNN-News18.

Despite the strictest of protocols in place, two Union ministers -- Nitin Gadkari and Prahlad Singh Patel -- tested positive while they were attending Parliament. Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe also tested positive the day after he attended Parliament where he had even participated in a discussion.

More than 250 Secretariat employees and several media personnel who went to cover the session also tested positive. The government has even mandated daily tests for journalists entering the Parliament to cover the session from Saturday.

A minister aware of the developments told CNN-News18, "It was a very difficult decision to hold a session in the midst of a pandemic, but we are bound by a constitutional duty. It is important for us to pass the ordinances, otherwise those will lapse. We will take a call after Sunday to see what can be done."

India, which recorded 93,337 new infections in the last 24 hours, has been posting the highest single-day caseload in the world since early August. India is the second-most badly affected country after the United States, with the total recorded cases at 5.3 million. The virus killed 1,247 people in last 24 hours, taking the total death toll to 85,619, government data showed on Saturday.

(With inputs from ANI)

first published:September 19, 2020, 12:28 IST