RS Chairman, LS Speaker Discuss Possibility of Virtual Meetings of Parl Panels

Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on Monday discussed the possibility of holding parliamentary committee meetings through video conferencing amid the COVID-19-induced lockdown and asked the secretary generals of both Houses to give a detailed report on it.

Naidu and Birla met at the Rajya Sabha chairman''s chamber on the first day of the fourth phase of the nationwide lockdown, imposed since March 25 to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus that has claimed 3,029 lives and infected 96,169 people in the country.

The Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha secretary generals were asked to examine all issues regarding holding of parliamentary committee meetings through video conferencing and submit a detailed report for further consideration, sources said.

This is the second meeting of the presiding officers of both Houses of Parliament on the issue. The first meeting was on May 7.

On Monday, Naidu and Birla were briefed by the secretary generals on discussions they have held so far and in particular, about a safe technical platform for video conferencing to be provided by the National Informatics Centre (NIC), the sources said.

They were also informed about the technical arrangements to be put in place for enabling video conferencing and the issues likely to be faced during virtual meetings of the committees, they said.

Naidu and Birla also discussed activities of members of Parliament during the lockdown and reported restrictions on their movement in some states, the sources said.

Some chairmen of parliamentary committees and a number of opposition members have sought holding of parliamentary panel meetings immediately.

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram also called for immediately holding such meetings, while noting that parliaments in some countries have held their sessions through video conferencing.

Congress leader Anand Sharma, who is the chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, has already written to the chairman and demanded early holding of such meetings.

Both have said that the economic stimulus package announced by the government should be discussed in committee meetings as part of parliamentary scrutiny.

Chidambaram accused the government of being "opportunistic" and bypassing parliamentary discussion and scrutiny.

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who is chairman of the parliamentary committee on Information Technology, has also written to the speaker for early holding of panel meetings.

He cited examples of other parliaments, including that of Canada, which are holding their sessions through video conferencing.