The government is likely to reject opposition 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, in which they attacked the government over its response to the coronavirus crisis and put out a charter of demands that included 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 Bharthari Mahatab are among the leaders to make these demands.
Both the government and the opposition have regularly used online video conferencing software, including Zoom, to hold meetings and communicate with the press amid the lockdown.
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 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