Virtual Meeting Of Parliamentary Committees Likely To Be Rejected

Sources also said that with the phased re-opening of air and rail services, there was no impediment to the movement of parliamentary committee members

Virtual Meeting Of Parliamentary Committees Likely To Be Rejected

The demand is likely to be dismissed over technology risks.

New Delhi:

Opposition demand for virtual meeting of parliamentary committees is likely to be rejected, sources have said, citing the lack of a secure platform on which to conduct video conferences.

According to sources, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu are unwilling to risk sensitive information being leaked via unsafe platforms and have stressed the need to maintain confidentiality when discussing parliamentary affairs.

Sources also said that with phased re-opening of air and rail services, and the centre allowing inter-state travel, there was no impediment to movement of committee members.

Meetings can, therefore, resume June 1, sources added. Sittings of both houses of parliament and its committees had been suspended over the nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

The opposition had demanded urgent convening of parliamentary committees to fix government accountability in view of its handling of the coronavirus crisis and problems faced by migrant workers stranded amid the lockdown.

The opposition also wanted to scrutinise changes to labour laws by different states.

On Friday, 22 opposition parties held an online meeting chaired by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, at which a charter of demands was released, including calls for restoring the functioning of parliament and oversight with immediate effect.

Opening the meeting, Mrs Gandhi said the centre had abandoned any pretence of democracy. "All power is concentrated in one office, the PMO," she said.

The Congress president's call to restore functioning of parliament oversight has been echoed by opposition MPs and chairpersons of parliamentary committees, who have demanded virtual meetings during the lockdown to ensure governance is not hampered.

Congress leaders Jairam Ramesh, Shashi Tharoor and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, as well as the Biju Janata Dal's Bhartruhari Mahatab are among the leaders to make these demands.

Both the government and the opposition have regularly used video conferencing software, including Zoom, to hold meetings and communicate with the press amid the lockdown.

Mr Birla and Mr Naidu are expected to meet later today to discuss reconvening of parliamentary committee meetings.

This will be their third meeting on the subject.

Earlier this month they had asked secretary-generals of both houses to explore alternatives to physical meetings of parliamentary committees, including video conferences.

A statement from the Rajya Sabha Chairman's office said a report from parliament's two top officials will form the basis for a decision by the presiding officers of both houses.

With inputs from PTI