New Delhi: The government has not taken a decision on when, in what form and for how long the monsoon session of the Parliament will be held, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi told ThePrint Wednesday.
“The government has not told us anything as of now,” Joshi said in an interview, adding, “I can give you a clear picture only after the next 15-20 days. I will also speak to the Prime Minister.”
The parliamentary affairs minister’s statement comes at a time when opposition parties, including the Congress, are pressing the government to hold the monsoon session to discuss the Covid pandemic and the India-China border tension, particularly the situation in Ladakh.
Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla have also held a couple of meetings to discuss various alternatives, including holding a hybrid session where some MPs sit inside the two houses while others sit outside in Central Hall and participate in the proceedings online.
‘Session requires about 3,000-3,500 people’
For now, Joshi said, the government has time to decide on when to hold the session. “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,” he said. “We have enough time to decide depending on how the situation unfolds because of the Covid outbreak.”
The last session, the budget session, was cut short because of the pandemic and was adjourned on 23 March, much before its scheduled conclusion on 3 April.
Holding a session, Joshi said, will require at least 3,000-3,500 people including MPs, their staff and the Parliament staff to come. “Is it feasible to call so many people to Parliament in the prevailing circumstances?” Joshi asked.
In Delhi, Covid cases were rising until last week. “Many members have expressed apprehension to travel to the Capital. We have to factor in all this while deciding on holding the session,” he added.
Govt intentionally delaying session: Opposition
The opposition, however, isn’t buying any of the minister’s reasons for the session not being convened.
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Congress floor leader in the Lok Sabha, said that it seems the government is intentionally trying to delay the session because they are uncomfortable explaining how they have managed, be it the Covid crisis or the situation in Ladakh.
“We are concerned. We have written to the presiding officers requesting them to hold the session but we can’t force the government,” he said.
Chowdhury said that after their repeated push, the government has at least decided to resume meetings of the parliamentary standing committees.
Derek O’Brien, the Trinamool Congress’ parliamentary party leader in the Rajya Sabha, said that before deciding on holding a full-fledged monsoon session, the government, for a start, can think of starting virtual sessions only of the standing committees.
“The rules clearly state that in all matters that are not specifically provided for in the rules and all questions relating to the detailed working of the rules, shall be regulated in a manner as directed by the (Rajya Sabha) Chairman,” he told ThePrint. “Presiding officers have the power to take a call. They are the guardians of the Constitution.”
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