May 15, 2021 3:38:05 am
Days after Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge wrote to Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu urging him to allow virtual meetings of parliamentary standing committees, the Rajya Sabha Secretariat is learnt to have replied to him turning down his plea.
Requests to allow virtual meetings of the standing committees were turned down last year as well by Rajya Sabha Chairman Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on grounds that virtual meetings would violate the confidential nature of such meetings and that any change to the norms require approval by Parliament.
Sources said a joint secretary level officer has replied to Kharge, referring to the decision taken by the presiding officers last year.
Naidu and Birla discussed the issue following Kharge’s letter and demands by many opposition leaders for allowing virtual meetings of standing committees, the sources said. On Thursday, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, also wrote to the Speaker with the same demand.
According to sources, the letter by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat points out that the Chairman and Speaker had decided last year, during the first wave of the pandemic, to refer the issue of allowing virtual meetings of parliamentary panels to the Committee on Rules in both Houses.
The Committee on Rules, however, did not take up the matter for discussion since Committees started physical meetings as the lockdown restrictions gradually eased in the second half of last year.
Sources said the Rajya Sabha Secretariat has told Kharge that meetings of the committees can be considered “shortly” once the situation improves.
As for the confidentiality issue, it is learnt to have said that the matter can be resolved during the session as any amendment to the Rules can be approved by the Houses “only after the matter is considered by the Rules Committees”.
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