New Delhi, Aug 19 (PTI) The Congress has urged Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu to allow MPs to participate in the upcoming Monsoon session of Parliament either physically or virtually as is being done by the courts.
While Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has written a letter to Birla, P Chidambaram has written to Naidu to allow MPs, unable to participate physically, attend the proceedings through an app or a link.
In his letter, Chowdhury said the monsoon session would be held shortly as the rules say that the intervening period between two sessions of Parliament cannot exceed six months.
'Under these circumstances, I thought it prudent to suggest to you that an APP and link should be provided to members (like in the Supreme Court and High Courts).
'Members who are physically present may speak in the House. Members who cannot be physically present should be allowed to speak via an APP. When the member's name is called, his mike will be unmuted, and he can speak for the allotted time,' Chowdhury said.
He said this facility is 'absolutely necessary' in view of the fact that the number of new COVID19 cases are rising and by September it may touch 70,000 per day.
In his letter to Naidu, Chidambaram said the proceedings of the House (Rajya Sabha or Lok Sabha) are not confidential or secret, unlike those of the Standing Committees.
Noting that proceedings of the House are open, recorded, reported in the media, and telecast, Chidambaram said in such circumstances it should be quite easy to employ technology to enable members to participate either physically or virtually in the proceedings of the House.
As in the case of the Supreme Court and High Courts, the Rajya Sabha Secretariat should select an App and all members should be requested to install the App in an electronic device, the Rajya Sabha MP said.
A link should be provided each day and members who wish to attend the House physically may do so, while the members who wish to attend the House virtually will be enabled by the link to participate, the former Union minister said.
A member attending virtually may also speak in the House by unmuting his/her mike when called by the Chair to speak, he suggested.
Welcoming the decision to hold the Monsoon Session of the two Houses of Parliament, Chidambaram said it is very important that the Houses should meet, even during the pandemic, to deliberate on many issues that concern the nation and the people.
Special arrangements are being made to ensure that the members are safe and to maintain social distancing inside the House, he noted.
'However, you will kindly appreciate that when nearly 245 members of the Rajya Sabha gather in one place, with nearly 300 officers, staff and security personnel in attendance, (and a larger number in the adjacent Lok Sabha), it is nearly impossible to avoid the spread of the virus,' Chidambaram said in the letter to the Vice President.
All evidence points to the conclusion that when people gather in significant numbers in one place, they are vulnerable and are exposed to infection, he said.
'I am afraid this apprehension will discourage many Members from participating physically in the proposed Session of the House,' Chidambaram said.
Hectic preparations are underway for the Monsoon Session of Parliament with several first-time measures in view of the COVID-19 pandemic such as staggered sitting of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and use of both chambers and galleries to accommodate members while following physical distancing norms, officials said.
The Monsoon Session is likely to begin in the last week of August or early September.
According to the Rajya Sabha Secretariat, members of the Upper House will be seated in both chambers and galleries during the session. PTI ASK SKC TDS TDS