New Delhi: With several Parliamentary committee meetings resuming next week — after a gap of almost three months in the wake of the Covid outbreak — the Lok Sabha secretariat has issued a detailed protocol for members to ensure they stay safe during the pandemic.
The protocol, issued Friday, includes advising ministries appearing before the panels to restrict the number of officials they bring for the meetings to a maximum of five.
“In case the ministry/department is compelled to bring more officials, arrangements may be made for their seating in the lobby area so that the other officials can be called to give evidence turn by turn as required,” the circular stated.
There will also be no verbatim recording of proceedings of the meetings to ensure that only a limited number of people are present in the meeting rooms.
The Lok Sabha secretariat has asked for arranging audio devices to record the proceedings of the Parliamentary panel meetings, which can later be handed over to the Verbatim Reporting Service branch for transcription.
“It may be difficult to get the verbatim proceedings recorded by the officials of the Verbatim Reporting Service, who are physically present in the meetings for this purpose,” according to the circular.
Also, all documents related to the meetings will have to be provided to the members in soft copies. No printed material should be used, the circular stated.
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The ministries/departments appearing before the Parliamentary panels have also been advised against bringing any material, including annual reports or bags.
3 meetings scheduled next week
With the opposition’s demand for resuming Parliamentary panel meetings growing, both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have agreed to hold physical meetings.
Opposition members had earlier pushed for holding of virtual meetings like other countries such as Britain and Germany. But the suggestions were rejected by the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretaries, citing confidentiality of the proceedings of the meetings.
Three Parliamentary committee meetings are scheduled for next week.
The Lok Sabha standing committee meeting on Petroleum is scheduled on 7 July and the meeting on Public Accounts Committee is on 10 July. The Rajya Sabha standing committee meeting on Science and Technology, Environment, Forest and Climate Change is also scheduled on 10 July to discuss the government’s preparedness to deal with the Covid crisis and other pandemic in future.
The Lok Sabha standing committee meeting on Information Technology is scheduled on 14 July.
6-ft gap between two seats, sanitizers to be provided
To ensure limited presence in the meeting rooms, the Lok Sabha secretariat has also restricted the number of officials and support staff servicing different committees.
The staff can wait in the lobby outside and can be called in, if required.
Besides, to ensure social distancing in the committee meetings, the gap between two seats should be six feet. This apart, sanitizers will have to be provided at the entrance of the committee rooms.
The Parliamentary panels, comprising members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, have the mandate to closely scrutinise all legislative as well as other matters that come before it.
For instance, the standing committees examine demands for grants and bills of different ministries, and provide guidance to ministries in policy formulation with an eye to strengthen the accountability of the government to the Parliament.
Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi had earlier told ThePrint the government has not taken any decision yet on holding the monsoon session of the Parliament.
“Rules say that a session has to be held within six months of the last session. The session has to be held before 22 September. We have enough time to decide depending on how the situation unfolds because of the Covid outbreak,” Joshi had told ThePrint in an interview earlier this week.
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