Virtual Meeting Of Parliamentary Committees Likely To Be Rejected

The demand is likely to be dismissed over technology risks.

New Delhi:

The government is likely to reject the opposition’s demand for a virtual meeting of parliamentary committees, sources have said, citing the lack of a secure platform on which to conduct these video conferences. Sources said the government was unwilling to risk sensitive information being leaked via unsafe platforms and said it was important to maintain confidentiality when discussing parliamentary affairs.

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

Parliamentary meetings can, therefore, resume June 1, sources added. Sittings of both houses of parliament had been suspended over the nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

On Friday, 22 opposition parties held an online meeting chaired by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. Standing united, the opposition attacked the government over its response to the coronavirus crisis and put out a charter of demands that included restoring immediate functioning of parliament and oversight.

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 has been joined in her call by several opposition MPs and chairpersons of parliamentary committees, all of whom have demanded virtual meetings during the lockdown to ensure the business of governance is not hampered.

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

Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu are expected to meet later today to discuss reconvening of parliament during the coronavirus outbreak.

This will be their third meeting on the subject.

Earlier this month Mr Birla and Mr Naidu did ask secretary-generals of both houses to explore alternatives to parliamentary committees physically meeting, including via video conferences.

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