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Protocol for Parliamentary panel meetings: 6-foot distance, only 2 witnesses at a time

Written by Liz Mathew
| New Delhi |

Published: July 8, 2020 1:30:57 am

The eight-point protocol approved for the Upper House will be followed by the Lok Sabha committees also, sources said. (File)

With two parliamentary panels all set to meet physically, the Rajya Sabha has put in place a protocol for committee meetings to ensure conformity with social distancing norms.

According to the protocol, members should be seated at a distance of 6 feet and only two witnesses from ministries will be allowed to appear at a time before the panel.

The eight-point protocol approved for the Upper House will be followed by the Lok Sabha committees also, sources said.

A meeting of the Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests is scheduled for July 10, while the Committee on Home Affairs is set to meet on July 15. Both committees will examine various aspects related to the Covid-19 pandemic. A meeting of the Public Accounts Committee is scheduled for Friday.

While members are being asked to be seated at a distance of 6 feet each, only two witnesses from the ministry or department appearing before the committee for evidence will be allowed at a time. If more witnesses are to be examined, it will be done in turns. There is no restriction on the number of witnesses that can be examined by the committees.

Soft copies of the material related to the meetings will be supplied to members, and their attendance — mandatory — will be taken outside the Committee Room. Sources said the presence of officials related to the committees will be restricted.

As the members would have to be provided necessary logistics, their participation will have to be ascertained in advance. “Hand Sanitizers, disposable masks and gloves for the members, witnesses, officers and staff of the Secretariat will be ensured at the entrance of the Committee Rooms,” says the note on protocol.

While there was confusion in the Lok Sabha secretariat about the modalities on reporting of the committee proceedings, Rajya Sabha has decided that reporters will be accommodated in the well of the Committee Rooms for taking verbatim note of the proceedings. In the Lok Sabha, there was a suggestion that instead of Parliament reporters being present for the meeting, recordings could be provided to them. However, experts like K Sreenivasan, who headed the Lok Sabha reporters section till last week, has said that accuracy and timely delivery cannot be ensured in such reporting.

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