The monsoon session of Parliament, the first to be held since the coronavirus lockdown was declared in March, will be marked by several firsts and special measures, government sources said Sunday, including using chambers and galleries of both Houses for the sitting of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
Four large (85 inches) display screens will be set up in the chambers and six smaller (40 inches) screens and audio consoles in the four galleries, as well as cables to transmit real-time audio-visual signals and communications consoles to enable members to participate in debates and discussions.
There are also proposals to install an ultraviolet irradiation system in the air-conditioning unit of the Rajya Sabha to kill germs and viruses.
These preparations, in place to ensure social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak, are underway, government sources said, so as to ensure the building is ready whenever the government decides to convene Parliament.
Different parties will be allotted seats – in either the chamber or galleries of the Rajya Sabha – based on their strength. The rest will be seated in the Lok Sabha chamber in two blocks – one for the ruling party and the second for others.
Seats will be reserved for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, union ministers and Leaders of the House and Opposition in the chamber of the Rajya Sabha. Former prime ministers, including Dr Manmohan Singh and Mr HD Deve Gowda, will also have seats reserved in the chamber.
Sources have said that each house will be limited to four hours functioning per day; the Lok Sabha will convene first, followed by the Rajya Sabha.
Polycarbonate sheets will also be installed to separate the Officials Gallery from the chamber as both are in close proximity.
Seating in the Officials Gallery and Press Gallery will also be in conformity with social distancing norms, with each accommodating only 15. This translates into limited numbers of secretariat officials and reporters.
Last week sources said that only seven reporters would be permitted in the press galleries while the Rajya Sabha is in session and 15 for the Lok Sabha. This is apart from news agencies like PTI and UNI, and state-run Doordarshan.
No temporary or session pass holding-reporters will be allowed, and journalists and ex-MPs will not be allowed in the central hall when sessions are on.
Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha TV will live telecast proceedings, as well as being responsible for coverage on the display screens in the chambers and galleries.
When Parliament is finally in session, it will be the first since the lockdown forced the budget session to a premature end.
The session must begin before September 23, because there cannot be a gap of more than six months between two sessions. The budget session was adjourned March 23.
Sittings of both houses have been suspended since March, days before PM Modi announced the nationwide coronavirus lockdown.