Rising cases of Covid-19 infections in the Capital might cast a shadow on the upcoming winter session of Parliament, said two functionaries with knowledge of the developments.
There is a possibility that the session, which normally begins in November and ends in December, may get clubbed with the Budget session that usually begins in the last week of January. A senior functionary privy to meetings said that there was concern among MPs, and given the spread of the virus in the Capital, it might be untenable to allow Parliament to function.
“The monsoon session was held after much deliberation and detail to logistics, hundreds of tests were conducted on a daily basis on the premises; measures were put in place to ensure physical distancing, extensive sanitization was carried out and yet there were several cases of infection. Now, with the cases increasing in Delhi there is a suggestion from officials as well as some members of Parliament to reconsider holding the winter session,” said the functionary quoted above.
To be sure, the issue is yet to be formally discussed between the Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha chairperson M Venkaiah Naidu; but the suggestion to defer the session has been conveyed to secretariat officials, said the functionary.
The winter session would have been the second parliamentary session, after the monsoon session, to take place during the Covid-19 pandemic. The monsoon session had to be cut short by eight days after cases of Covid-19 infection were reported among MPs, Union ministers and the staff on Parliament duty. In all, at least 50 people connected to Parliament tested positive. On the day the monsoon session started (September 14), new cases in Delhi averaged 4,001. In the last week, the daily average stands at 6,670.
A second official said there was no pressing matter to be taken up during the winter session, or any ordinances that would otherwise lapse. “There is a possibility of a short session as some officials have pointed out that the government has to seek Parliament’s nod for additional spending in some sectors in supplementary demand for grants. However, there is precedence of a obtaining a post-facto ratification,” said the second official.
PDT Acharya, a former Lok Sabha general secretary, said as per convention, Parliament meets for three sessions in a year, but there is no rule specifying the number of days or the period during which Parliament should meet. “As per the Constitution the only requirement is that gap between two sessions should not be more than six months,” he said.
Acharya also said the government could explore the opting of online sessions as Parliament proceedings are open and there is no secrecy involved.