The Lok Sabha Secretariat has issued a series of guidelines to ensure smooth functioning of Committee meetings in the Parliament complex. These guidelines will ensure that due Covid-19 protocols are followed to the best way possible.
The communication of the secretariat accessed by CNN News18 reads, "With further relaxations in the lockdown made with effect from July 1, the sittings of the Parliamentary Committees can now be held while observing some restrictions."
It further says that not more than five officers can be summoned by the Committee from any ministry/ department for such a meeting. In case the number exceeds, the other officers would be seated in the lobby, etc. and can come into the meeting room by taking turns.
No written recording of the proceedings of such meetings can happen, it said. In fact, audio recordings would be permissible and these devices would be arranged by the CPWD. At the end of the meeting, these devices would be handed over to Verbatim Reporting Service Branch department for translation and transcript.
The members/officers would be discouraged from bringing any bags or any papers to the meeting and all report or important documents will be distributed digitally as soft copies.
The notification also states that social distancing must be followed by all members as they sit for such meetings and a distance of at least six feet must be maintained between two individuals. Sanitisers must also placed outside the meeting room, it says.
The committee branches would also be advised to keep their staff/supporting staff at the minimum to avoid any violation of the Covid-19 rules.
It was earlier decided that after the meeting no tea or refreshments would be served – as was the provision in the pre-COVID times. In case of day-long meetings, members would advised to return home for lunch breaks and come back for the meeting.
Lok Sabha related Standing Committees resumed function after more than three months since complete lockdown to cure the spread of the virus. The Committee on Welfare of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) had met last week in Parliament.
Other meetings slated are Committee for Petroleum and Natural.Gas chaired by BJP Delhi MP Ramesh Biduri on July 7 and Committee for PAC chaired by Congress floor leader in Lok Sabha, Adhiranjan Chowdhury, on July 10.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor-led Committee on Information & Technology is slated to meet on July 14.
A final decision is yet to be taken by authorities on the shape that the upcoming Monsoon Session would take and how seating arrangements, etc. would be implemented. Lok Sabha Speaker has held a number of meetings with the officers of the Secretariat Om Birla, and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu has also held joint meetings to work out the modalities.
The Lok Sabha Speaker has also received the request of MPs asking for virtual meetings of committees to take place, given their reservation to travel to the national capital in the middle of pandemic. No decision in this regard has been taken. It was, however, agreed to by the custodians of both Houses, that any change of rules to allow virtual meetings of the committees will have to be passed by the Parliament. It cannot happen any sooner than when the Monsoon Session happens.
Quite a few MPs have written to their committee chairman who, in turn, wrote to the Lok Sabha Speaker about concerns of travelling to Delhi for meetings as quarantine rules in various states would then mean they remain locked at home or institutionally as the case may be in some states that have mandated. The MPs have thus requested for amendment in quarantine rules for them to travel for such meetings. That matter is under consideration.
With the government soon to take a decision on when to call for a session, the Lok Sabha Secretariat is preparing itself for all the possibilities keeping in mind the Covid-19 guidelines in place. Holding these Committee meetings successfully with all protocols in place is the first big step in this direction.