More clarity emerged after a meeting between Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday on how to go about organising the upcoming Monsoon Session of the Parliament. Officers of both Houses were present at the meeting.
It has been clarified to a great extent that members of both Houses would be seated in their respective Houses -- earlier speculation that the Lok Sabha would be moved to the Central Hall and the Rajya Sabha to the Lower House is being completely ruled out.
Officers from the CPWD on Saturday met the custodians of both Houses and physical measurements were taken to see how seating arrangements could be worked out keeping a distance of six feet between two members. In case more members have to be accommodated, all galleries except the Press Gallery would be utilised keeping the same norm of social distancing in mind. Both chambers and even the lobbies leading up to the Houses can be used in case members need to be accommodated.
Secretary Generals of both Houses have been instructed to finalise the seating arrangements. Holding of recent Committee meetings has been acting as a dress rehearsal for authorities to assess how coronavirus-related protocol can be imposed.
Since many members, especially those from the Congress, have been pressing for a session, it has also been decided to hold one with members being physically present, said sources. As deliberated earlier, an online session and even a hybrid session have been ruled out.
Speculation that Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha seatings will happen on alternate days has also been ruled out -- preparation from the authorities is well on course to ensure both Houses function simultaneously.
It is also being deliberated to work on reducing the staff strength to ensure social distancing.
It is also under consideration to disallow visitors in Parliament, like was done towards the end of the Budget Session. Anyone coming to meet a minister would be asked to enter just that office and exit to the main gate from there; moving around to areas other than those for which permission has been granted would be prohibited.
Top government sources said the Centre is keen on holding a Session keeping everyone's safety in mind. It is waiting to get clearance from the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Secratariat about preparations to announce dates for the Monsoon Session. It is also well known that as per the rules, one session must happen within six months of the previous one. The Budget Session abruptly ended on March 23 because of the coronavirus lockdown, so the Monsoon Session must start before September 22.
The government has already clarified that it has pressing issues that need parliamentary clearance, including Ordinances that must be passed in the upcoming Session.
At least half a dozen meetings over hours have been conducted by custodians of both Houses to find the best possible way to ensure the smooth functioning of Parliament.