Monsoon session plan: LS and RS to sit by turns, use each others' chambers

With the government looking at holding the monsoon session of Parliament by the end of August, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on Monday discussed the possibility of the two Houses sitting either on alternate days, or if on the same day, then one House sitting in the morning and other in the evening.

According to sources, such a plan would ensure social distancing as the two Houses would get to use each other’s respective chambers as well as visitors' galleries for seating of their members.

Naidu and Birla held a two-hour long meeting and also inspected the chambers and galleries of both the Houses to take stock of seating capacity as per physical distancing norms.

The visit was followed by a detailed discussion on using the chambers of both the Houses for conducting the proceedings of each of the two Houses, sources said.

A senior official said the plan is that members of the Lok Sabha would be seated in the chambers of both the Houses while Lok Sabha is in session, and so would be the case with the Rajya Sabha whose members would sit in the chambers of both the Houses.

The Rajya Sabha chamber and its galleries can accommodate 127 of its 245 members ensuring physical distancing, while the Lok Sabha chambers and its galleries can accommodate about 290 of its 543 members.

The earlier plan was that the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha choose either the GMC Balayogi Auditorium or the Central Hall of Parliament for seating the remainder of their members who cannot be accommodated in that House's respective chambers and galleries. However, there are logistical and infrastructural problems with the proposal.

The current proposal that the Rajya Sabha Chairman and the Lok Sabha Speaker discussed would mean members of the two Houses who can’t be accommodated in the chambers and galleries of respective House would be seated in the chamber and galleries of the other House.

Various logistical and technical issues were identified that need to be addressed if this option were to be exercised. These include, enabling participation of the members of a House seated in the other House through necessary audio-visual connectivity and display in the other House, audio facilities for members seated in galleries, simultaneous interpretation, taking vote if required, enabling live telecast of proceedings of each House and arrangements for media persons.

Secretaries General of both the Houses have been asked to examine the proposal in detail for taking a final decision in respect of this new option after its evaluation against other options under consideration, sources said.

The Budget session of Parliament was truncated on March 23 because of the spread of Covid-19. The Constitution mandates that there should not be a gap of more than six months between two sessions of Parliament. Therefore, Parliament should convene by the third week of September.

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