Parliament’s Monsoon session may be shorter, a digital-physical hybrid
Officials familiar with the matter said that while some members may sit in the two houses — on designated seats with social distancing, and in different galleries on the first floor — others may attend the proceedings digitally from Parliament’s library building, which is situated next to the main building.Updated: Jul 04, 2020 04:41 IST
The Monsoon session of Parliament may begin after August 15, be shorter than usual, and lawmakers may be spread across different buildings to attend hybrid — a mix of physical and digital — proceedings as lawmaking adjusts to the new normal inflicted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Officials familiar with the matter said that while some members may sit in the two houses — on designated seats with social distancing, and in different galleries on the first floor — others may attend the proceedings digitally from Parliament’s library building, which is situated next to the main building. The online platform of the National Informatics Centre (NIC) can accommodate up to 600 visitors.
The officials cited above said on condition of anonymity that the plan on who will be allocated space where is likely to be drawn based on the strength of different parties in the Upper and Lower houses.
An earlier plan to shift the Lok Sabha to the larger Central Hall, and the Rajya Sabha to the Lok Sabha, was junked, the officials added, saying it was proving difficult to safely accommodate all the members .
With a rise in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks the authorities are also considering a shorter session. “There’s not much business to transact. The priority of the government is to clear the ordinances promulgated in the past few months and the Opposition might press for debates on Covid pandemic and Indo-China border conflict,” said an official involved in the preparations. He said that the session may start only after Independence Day. Last year, the Monsoon session ran from June 17 to August 6.
The Narendra Modi government has, in recent months, brought three ordinances to redefine the legal framework of India’s agricultural markets as a part of its Covid response. It amended the Essential Commodities Act, brought a new legislation on contract farming, and changed the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs) laws to allow farmers sell their produce freely.
The government also promulgated the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 to bring the large network of co-operative banks under the purview of the Reserve Bank of India.
Even as the government will take a final call on the session’s schedule, Rajya Sabha chair, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla are busy preparing the ground for a session amid the risks posed by Covid-19.
“The broad position that emerged was to enable seating of members of Rajya Sabha in the chamber and the galleries of the House in conformity with the norm of physical distancing. And to enable virtual participation of other members from either the Central Hall or Balayogi Auditorium in the Parliament House premises,” said a second official.
Naidu, the official added, wants to enable the participation of the members from within the House to the extent possible. The main chamber and the galleries of Rajya Sabha can accommodate 127 members (out of 245) if social distancing norms are adhered to. “All the galleries except the media gallery will be utilised for MPs. And screens will be put up both inside and outside the House to help members virtually participate,” said the official.
The number of people who can be accommodated in the 543-member Lok Sabha while following the same norms was not immediately available.
The budget session this year started on January 31 and ran till March 23.
Parliamentary affairs minister Prahlad Joshi has said the Centre has “enough time to decide because of the Covid outbreak.”
Congress leader Adhir Chowdhury has maintained that many Opposition leaders have written to presiding officers to hold the session to discuss urgent matters.