Is Parliament exempt from its own laws, asks Opposition

Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla speaks to the officals as he reviews preparedness in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, at Parliament House Complex, in New Delhi.

Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla speaks to the officals as he reviews preparedness in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, at Parliament House Complex, in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Parliamentarians again demanded a closure of House over COVID-19 outbreak.

Opposition parties once again reiterated their demand to close Parliament in the face of the COVID 19 outbreak, questioning whether Parliament was exempt from the laws it makes.

By Friday evening, at least seven MPs had gone into self-quarantine after coming directly or indirectly in contact with affected patients.

Three of them — BJP MP Dushyant Singh, Apna Dal MP Anupriya Patel, and TMC MP Derek O’ Brien — announced the self-quarantine on Friday.

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Mr. Singh was at a party in Lucknow where singer Kanika Kapoor, who tested positive for coronavirus was also present. Mr O’ Brien, and Ms. Patel announced self quarantine after having spent time with Mr. Singh.

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Earlier, Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan, BJP MP Suresh Prabhu and Sukhendu Shekar Ray of the Trinamool Congress had gone into self-quarantine after coming in direct or indirect contact with affected patients. Another BJP MP Varun Gandhi is the latest lawmaker to self-quarantine.

Age factor

“About 44% of MPs in Rajya Sabha and 22% in Lok Sabha are 65 years or above. The government preaches one thing and practices another,” Mr O’ Brien said.

Earlier in Rajya Sabha, Chairman Venkaiah Naidu read out the leave application of Mr Ray, who sought leave for “self- quarantine” because of growing number of coronavirus affected persons. In his leave application he quoted the government’s orders to avoid large gatherings.

This prompted deputy leader of the Congress Anand Sharma to point out that Parliament is functioning as an exception to the government’s own decisions.

COVID-19 | Interactive map of confirmed coronavirus cases in India

“Firstly, the Epidemics Act has been invoked in Delhi and in the rest of the country. So, is Parliament exempt from the laws which Parliament makes? Government has invoked the Epidemic Act in Delhi,” Mr Sharma said. Flagging a Press Information Bureau notification which recommended that those above 65 years should not venture out of their houses, he said, “I am above 65. Hon. Chairman is above 65. There are so many Members above 65. So, what example is Parliament setting about the respect for the laws of the land and government's notification?”

At this Mr. Naidu immediately responded with: “God Bless you! Nothing will happen to you and me.”

Suspend biometrics

Speaking during the Zero Hour, when parliamentarians are allowed to raise issues of public importance, at least three members spoke on issues related to the outbreak.

CPI (M)’s Jharna Baidya demanded that biometric authentication for public distribution system should be suspended till the outbreak was reined in. She said the Left government in Kerala had already brought in this change. Two BJP MPs Satish Chandra Dubey and Kirodi Lal Meena both raised the issue of Indian students stranded in the Philippines.

Speaker Om Birla carried out an inspection of all vulnerable areas to check on disfection efforts.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 1:28:39 AM |

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