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Rajya Sabha says ‘no’ to joining panel meeting through videoconference

Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma. File

Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma. File  

‘It is most unfortunate’, says Home Affairs panel chairman Anand Sharma.

The Rajya Sabha Secretariat has denied permission for the Standing Committee on Home Affairs’ members to join a meeting of the panel through videoconference.

The same was conveyed to committee chairperson and Congress leader Anand Sharma over phone by the office of House Chairman Venkaiah Naidu.

The meeting, scheduled for June 3, is slated to discuss the “situation arising out of the lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak and its handling by the Ministry.”

With lockdown in force, political parties and govt offices take to video conferencing apps

Mr. Sharma told The Hindu, “It is most unfortunate. If the Prime Minister of India can have summits with leader of other countries, with Chief Ministers via videoconference, if the Rajasthan Assembly could have a virtual session, then why not allow the Indian Parliamentarians to use it? After all we are supposed to be an IT [information Technology] super power”.

DMK MP and former IT Minister Dayanidhi Maran, a member of the panel, has written a letter to Mr. Sharma expressing concern over members being asked to travel to Delhi to attend the meeting.

“If I travel to Delhi, not only would I be exposing myself to the COVID-19 virus, but I would also be forced to enter into quarantine or isolation for a 14-day period on return to Chennai as per the current SOP, which would affect my parliamentary duties in my constituency,” he wrote.

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Mr. Maran said the National Informatics Centre’s (NIC) videoconferencing facility, which is being used by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the Cabinet Secretariat, the Ministry of Home Affairs and branches of the armed forces for their daily meetings, should be provided to parliamentarians too.

A call will be taken on Monday, after speaking to all the members, whether to hold a meeting as scheduled or not, Mr. Sharma said.

Plea to Birla

Chairman of the committee on Labour B. Mahtab and chairman of the committee on Information and Technology Shashi Tharoor had approached Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, seeking permission to hold their panel meetings through videoconference.

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Sources said both Houses were exploring the possibility of using videoconference as a medium of meetings. The rules dictated that parliamentary committee meetings were confidential.

The reason why videoconference meetings was not being allowed was because it violated the principle of confidentiality - there was no guarantee of a member sitting alone at such events, the sources added.

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Printable version | Jul 12, 2020 2:06:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/rajya-sabha-says-no-to-joining-panel-meeting-through-videoconference/article31711353.ece

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