Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Kerala Assembly will convene for a day on August 24 for passage of the Finance Bill and strict health protocol, including antigen test to screen the members for the pathogen,would be followed, Speaker P Sreeramakrishan said on Friday. The brief session will also take up the opposition UDF's notice for a no-confidence motion against the LDF government and the discussion on it will be held for five hours, he told reporters here.
The byelection to the Rajya Sabha seat which fell vacant after the May 28 death of sitting member 83-year old M P Veerandra Kumar, a media baron and veteran socialist, would also be held on Monday. The session was initially planned to be held on July 27,but the government had deferred it, citing COVID-19 situation.
While the state budget was presented in February, the Finance Bill 2020-21 could not be passed as the state assembly had been adjourned sine die on March 13 in the backdrop of the coronavirus scare. Being the first session after the outbreak of COVID-19, it will witness social distancing in seating and restrictions on visitors and officials besides antigen tests for the members as part of precautionary measures against the virus.
A medical team would conduct the rapid antigen tests on the members early in the morning on the day of the session. "In case a member is found to be COVID-positive in the antigen test, arrangements have been made so that he/she can vote in the Rajya Sabha election and leave the assembly premises without participating in the other proceedings of the session," Sreeramakrishan said.
While the opposition had sought at least two days for discussion on the no-confidence motion, the Speaker said only five hours would be alloted for it. The opposition front decided to bring the no-confidence motion as part of its protest seeking Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's resignation alleging that his office was linked to the recent case of gold smuggling through diplomatic channel.
Meanwhile, a release from the Speaker's office said the assembly complex and the adjacent areas were disinfected on Friday and special seating arrangements were being made for the session. "Each member will have a separate seat for this session in order to maintain the social distance. All the members will be provided with a sanitiser, mask and a face-shield along with a pair of gloves," it said.
The Public and the Speaker's galleries would be closed and all those entering the assembly complex would be subjected to thermal scanning also. "In the gallery for officials, only necessary staff will be allowed. In the press gallery, the seating will be arranged maintaining social distance," the release said.
In the 140-member assembly, the CPI-M led Left Democratic Front (LDF) has 91 members, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) 45 and the BJP and Independent have one each. Two seats are vacant.