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Virtual Parliament? LS Speaker & RS Chairman Mull Way Forward on Holding Sessions Amid Pandemic

File photos of PS Chairman Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla.

File photos of PS Chairman Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla.

Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla decided to refer the matter of holding meetings virtually to the Rules Committees of both the Houses.

Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla held a meeting on Monday to take decisions of some key issues amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The duo delved upon the demand of MPs across party lines to allow parliamentary committee meetings via video conferencing.

Taking cognisance of existing rules regarding confidentiality in respect of meetings of the committees and implications of holding virtual meetings, Naidu and Birla decided to refer the matter to the Rules Committees of both the Houses.

Later, a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs convened on June 3 by panel chairman Anand Sharma to discuss the lockdown was deferred after some members expressed their inability to attend it due to travel restrictions.

Birla and Naidu also deliberated upon the future of holding the upcoming Monsoon Session of Parliament, generally held between mid-July and mid-August.

Under the present circumstances wherein the coronavirus-induced lockdown is likely to remain in place for a long while, social distancing would hold the key. Hence, the use of technology would need to be explored, the duo decided.

As there is no requirement of maintaining confidentiality of the proceedings of the Houses, which are open to general public besides being telecast live, virtual Parliament is an option that may be explored.

Secretaries-General of both the Houses would soon look at a number of suggestions received and their feasibility.

Suggestions received include holding the meeting of Lok Sabha in the Central Hall with the Rajya Sabha shifting to the chamber of the Lok Sabha and the sittings of both the Houses being held on alternate days.

Also, a lot of members had expressed their apprehension of coming to Delhi for their Rajya Sabha oath-taking, following which the same has been deferred for the time being.

Meanwhile, no new has been fixed for the meeting that was cancelled and sources said it would be worked out soon in consultation with the panel's members.

Chairpersons of different parliamentary panels are empowered to convene regular meetings of the committees that are usually held in Parliament complex.

Sharma had sought approval of the Rajya Sabha Chairman to allow members not able to attend the meeting of the committee to participate through video conferencing, but was denied permission, the sources said.

This was to be the first meeting of the parliamentary committee since the nationwide lockdown was imposed to combat the novel coronavirus on March 25.

The issue of thousands of migrant workers walking on the roads in their bid to reach home during the lockdown were likely to be discussed at the panel meeting, the sources said.

(With inputs from PTI)

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