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Parliament during coronavirus outbreak

Parliament Monsoon Session: Ahead of the Monsoon session of Parliament, consultations have started upon how the session can be held in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak. According to a report in The Indian Express, the upcoming session is likely to see a mix of virtual and physical participation of the MPs due to the threat of virus.

The development comes after the secretaries-general of Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha said that the facilities are inadequate for a full virtual session. Earlier, there were reports that the government was mulling a full virtual session.

The secretaries-general of both Houses have assessed the physical and digital infrastructure for the options to conduct sessions. They reported to the presiding officers that it was not possible to hold a full virtual session and also it was not possible to accommodate all the MPs at the Central Hall and Vigyan Bhavan.

They said seating arrangement as per social distancing norms will fall short at the Central Hall and Vigyan Bhavan.

The chambers face space constraints, given the physical distancing norms, and the National Informatics Centre (NIC) cannot enable capacity for virtual participation of all members. The NIC provides cyber infrastructure for the government.

“As every MP has a right to participate in the session, choosing MPs for participation is ruled out. But neither the Central Hall nor Vigyan Bhavan have the seating capacity to accommodate all the MPs as per social distancing norms,” a source told the IE.

“So, as of now, the only option seems to be a hybrid session – with some members being physically present in the House and others attending on a virtual platform,” it added.

Regarding a complete virtual Parliament, it said, “It is also not possible as the NIC does not have the necessary capacity. It has only 500 dedicated lines.”

A hybrid session is inevitable, the report said. Meanwhile, any change in the rules of conducting the Parliament session requires a motion to be carried in both Houses.

The Budget Session was curtailed abruptly in March this year due to COVID-19.


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