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Science panel head opposes RS bar on online participation

At a meeting under Naidu’s chairmanship on Wednesday, Rajya Sabha officials pointed out that quorum is necessary only for taking decisions and adopting reports and not for discussion.

Updated: Jul 09, 2020 11:56 IST

By HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times New Delhi

Jairam Ramesh called Rajya Sabha officials’ arguments against his proposal for the virtual participation “silly and bogus” and complained about the “disinformation virus”.

Congress lawmaker Jairam Ramesh, who heads the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment & Forests, on Wednesday expressed displeasure over Rajya Sabha secretariat’s decision disallowing online participation of some of the panel’s members for a meeting to discuss Covid-19 pandemic.

He called Rajya Sabha officials’ arguments against his proposal for the virtual participation “silly and bogus” and complained about the “disinformation virus”.

Ramesh wrote to Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu saying some panel members be allowed to participate virtually as he feared a lack of quorum for the meeting.

At a meeting under Naidu’s chairmanship on Wednesday, Rajya Sabha officials pointed out that quorum is necessary only for taking decisions and adopting reports and not for discussion.



“Officials maintained that 22% of the meetings of science and technology committee had no quorum in last 3 years or during the tenure of the current chairman, Naidu,” said a functionary of the Rajya Sabha.

“Details of meetings of committees without quorum were referred to only to bring out that committees used to meet without quorum even in normal times and it has been the case with all 8 committees of Rajya Sabha. This information has been widely shared so that MPs willing to attend the meetings convened in the next few days should not be in any doubt whether such meetings will be held or not, on account of quorum requirement,” added one official.

Many opposition lawmakers have been demanding online meetings of Parliamentary panels due to the Covid-19 pandemic.Naidu and Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla have held meetings and asked officials to find out a solution, but permissions for digital discussions have not been forthcoming.

Parliamentary panel meetings have always happened inside the House complex amid much secrecy.

In a tweet, Ramesh said, “Since I took over as Chairman of the Committee on Science & Technology, Environment, Forests & Climate Change, we have held 11 meetings from September 2019 to March 2020 with quorum in all meetings.”

He said the point was not about quorum alone. “It is about facilitating those MPs [members of Parliament] who want to attend & are unable to because of containment zone & quarantine restrictions in their home states. Very different from not attending due to other commitments in normal times...” He referred to the lack of quorum in earlier meetings. “On those occasions we did not have advance information always on who will attend and who will not. This time around MPs have informed before the meeting. Some have even requested for virtual meeting,” said Ramesh.

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