Parliament doesn’t have space to ensure physical distancing: Secretaries-General

Secretaries-General brief Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha Chairman on the situation.

Updated - June 10, 2020 01:57 am IST

Published - June 09, 2020 10:10 pm IST - New Delhi

A view of the Parliament building in New Delhi.

A view of the Parliament building in New Delhi.

Both Houses of Parliament do not have space to accommodate members while strictly adhering to social distancing norms necessary to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla were told on Tuesday by the Secretaries-General of both Houses, at a meeting in Capital, informed sources said.

Also read: Venkaiah Naidu reviews preparedness for holding regular Parliament panel meetings

According to the sources, as per the review done by the parliamentary secretariat, the Rajya Sabha chamber can have 60 members while keeping enough distance between each of the members and the Lok Sabha chamber has space for a little over 100 members. The secretariat had been weighing on moving the Rajya Sabha to the Lok Sabha chamber, while moving Lok Sabha members to the Central Hall, which is used for joint sittings of the Parliament. “Even if the members are accommodated in the visitors and the press galleries, the total seating capacity would be much less than the required, if all members were to be accommodated,” a senior official said.

Vigyan Bhawan

The seating capacity at the Vigyan Bhawan, which is a government facility used for national conferences, was also reviewed. For now this option too has been ruled out. “Another option discussed was to enable attendance in the chambers of both the Houses of only those many members who can be accommodated as per the social distancing norm by drawing up lists of such members whose participation in various items of business is required on a daily basis,” the official added. However, the opposition is likely to resist any such move to curtail the entry of members during a session for paucity of space.

Both the presiding officers have feasibility of allowing the members to join the Parliament session virtually. The Budget session of Parliament had abruptly ended on March 23. The monsoon session as per norm, begins by the third week of July.

Also read:  Coronavirus | Venkaiah Naidu defers decision on parliamentary panels’ meetings via videoconference

During the meeting, both Mr. Naidu and Mr. Birla, for now have ruled out using a web cast for holding virtual meetings of the Parliamentary Committees, saying it would need change of rules, which has to be approved by both Houses of Parliament.

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