The monsoon session of parliament ahead, consultations have started on how the parliament sessions can be held in view of the coronavirus threat. Today, Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker OM Birla discussed the modalities of holding the session and one of the ideas explored was the possibility of a “virtual parliament”.
The meeting at Mr Naidu’s official residence was also attended by the Secretaries-General of both Houses who have been asked to examine the feasibility of using the Central Hall of Parliament for meetings of the Lok Sabha for the monsoon session. The Rajya Sabha can shift to the chamber of Lok Sabha and the sittings of the two Houses can be held on alternate days.
Sources said both Mr Naidu and Mr Birla favoured e-Parliament as a long-term option and decided to refer the idea of virtual meetings of committees to the Rules Committee, formulates rules for smooth functioning of the house.
It was also considered preferable as there is no confidentiality issue in the proceedings of both Houses, which are already being telecast live.
It was also proposed that the various committees of parliament hold virtual meetings. The Secretaries-General were asked to examine the issues involved, including a safe technological platform, the rules of confidentiality and infrastructure upgrade.
With some newly elected members of Rajya Sabha pointing to the difficulties of travelling to Delhi in view of quarantine, Mr Naidu has deferred the oath for the 37 members who have already been elected unopposed.
Parliament was adjourned side die in March days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the nationwide lockdown which is now in its fifth phase.
But since April, the government has been relaxing the curbs in phases. Since last month, all Central ministers have been back in their offices. Employees are attending too, and all functions have been subject to strict social distancing norms and other safety measures.