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Quorum not needed for routine standing committee meetings, says Rajya Sabha Secretariat

Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu. File

Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu. File  

Contradicting the Opposition parties’ argument for virtual meetings of standing committees to ensure quorum during deliberations, the officials at the Rajya Sabha secretariat has said that quorum was essential only when the committees are taking decisions or adopting reports and not during routine deliberations.

Also read: Standing Committee’s video-conference scuttled over security concerns

Sources said this issue came up at a meeting on Wednesday chaired by Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu. Congress leader and chairman of the standing committee on Science and Technology Jairam Ramesh and written to Mr. Naidu demanding a virtual meeting citing lack of quorum.

Quorum for these meetings is generally 11 out of 30 members.

The officials, sources said, told Mr. Naidu that out of 281 meetings of the eight department-related standing committees that are headed by Rajya Sabha members, 16 per cent were held without quorum. “The committee on Science and Technology & Environment and Forests held 32 meetings during the last 3 years, of which 22 per cent were without quorum. In respect of the 38 meetings of the committee on Home Affairs, 21 per cent were without quorum,” a senior RS official said.

Mr. Ramesh has been heading the committee only since September last year. He said that during his tenure, 11 meetings were held and quorum was complete in each one of them.

Also read: Venkaiah Naidu, Om Birla take the initiative on panels’ ‘virtual’ meetings

According to sources, so far eight of the 30 members of the standing committee on Science and Technology which is to deliberate on “Preparedness for COVID-19” have confirmed attendance. Of these members, other than Mr. Ramesh himself, one member from the Samajwadi Party and one from Bahujan Samaj Party, the remaining are from the BJP. All the members who have confirmed are either from Delhi or Uttar Pradesh, their constituencies within driving distance to Parliament.

“Point isn’t about quorum alone. It’s about facilitating those MPs who want to attend and are unable to because of containment zones & quarantine restrictions in their home states. Very different from not attending due to other commitments in normal times,” Mr. Ramesh said.

CPI Rajya Sabha MP and member of the committee Binoy Viswam echoed Mr. Ramesh’s point. “I have already conveyed that I won’t be able to travel to Delhi for obvious reasons. And this doesn’t mean that I am not keen to participate in the meeting. We need to have a vibrant Parliament where members’ participation is encouraged. By disallowing virtual meetings of the committees, the government is trying to lock down the Parliament,” he said.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 11:47:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/quorum-not-needed-for-routine-standing-committee-meetings-says-rs-secretariat/article32024898.ece

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