Limited Hours, No Journalists In Central Hall: Parliament Session Rules

This is the first time that parliament will be in session since the coronavirus lockdown forced the budget session to come to an premature end

Limited Hours, No Journalists In Central Hall: Parliament Session Rules

Parliament is likely to restart from end-August or first week of September, source said (File)

New Delhi:

The monsoon session of Parliament is likely to start from August-end or first week of September, sources said on Tuesday, adding that both houses - the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha - will follow necessary hygiene protocols and guidelines to minimise crowding and contact, both during and after sessions.

There will also be limited numbers of reporters allowed in the press galleries of each house while it is in session, apart from journalists from news agencies and state-run TV channels. No journalist will allowed in the central hall of the parliament building. 

This is the first time parliament will be in session since the lockdown forced the budget session to a premature end. Sources said that although both houses of parliament will function, they will be limited to four hours per day; the Lok Sabha will meet first, followed by the Rajya Sabha.

MPs from each house will be expected to leave the parliament building once their proceedings are over.

The presiding officers of - Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu - have held extensive discussions over the past days on the logistics of seating and participation of MPs.

Source said that to allow parliament to function effectively while maintain social distancing, the galleries and the central hall are likely to be used.

In their discussions Mr Birla and Mr Naidu had also discussed a "virtual parliament", something they were both in favour of as a long-term option in case regular meetings are not possible. In June, opposition parties like the Congress supported the idea of a "virtual parliament" to discuss the COVID-19 outbreak and the India-China border row.

Meanwhile, sources also said that to limit the number of people in the building while Parliament is in session, journalists and ex-MPs will not be allowed in the central hall.

In addition, no temporary or session pass holding-reporters will be allowed. In total only seven reporters will be permitted in the press galleries while the Rajya Sabha is in session and 15 for the Lok Sabha.

This is apart from news agencies like PTI and UNI, and the state-run Doordarshan, and Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha TVs.

Although there is no final date yet on the starting of the monsoon session, it must begin before September 12. This is because there cannot be a gap of more than six months between two parliament sessions.

The budget session was adjourned prematurely on March 23 before its scheduled conclusion on April 3.

Sittings of both houses of parliament and its committees, which will also resume, have been suspended since March, days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

Over the past weeks though, the government has been easing restrictions in phases - the country is currently in the third such phase, or Unlock3.

Since May union ministers, who had worked from home amid the lockdown, returned to their offices, albeit with strict social distancing rules and other safety measures.

India has recorded over 18 lakh COVID-19 cases so far, of which nearly 39,000 are deaths linked to the virus and 5.87 lakh are active cases. Over 50,000 people tested positive on Monday. India is the third worst-hit country, with only Brazil and the United States worse off.