Presiding officers saying no to virtual meetings of parliamentary standing committees disappointing: P Chidambaram

After presiding officers of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha rejected demands for virtual meetings of parliamentary standing committees, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday said he was disappointed with their decision as discussing the pandemic was no state or defence secret.

He said public pressure should be exerted on the presiding officers of both houses of Parliament to help allowing of meetings of standing committees during the pandemic.

“The conclusion of the presiding officers are very-very disappointing. Parliaments all over the world are meeting. Our Parliament also should meet under very severe conditions and circumstances. But, if the Parliament cannot meet, at least, the parliamentary committees must meet virtually,” he told reporters.

“What is this great thing about secrecy? After every Parliamentary Standing Committee meeting, the newspapers report the next day. What is the secrecy about discussing a pandemic situation? We are not discussing defence secrets. We are not discussing nuclear secrets, we are not discussing defence preparedness, we are not discussing the internal security situation, depending upon the subject, we must meet,” he said.

Expressing his disappointment over the decision, the senior Congress leader said the presiding officers must make a distinction between subjects like defence or defence preparedness and the pandemic situation.

Party colleague Shaktisinh Gohil alleged that the prime minister is continuing to follow the Gujarat model of governance in Delhi. He said in Gujarat the assembly session was held only for one day in six months and the same is now happening with Parliament under Narendra Modi.

Noting that there is nothing secret about the pandemic situation, Chidambaram said a pandemic situation must be discussed in a public forum, it must be discussed openly.

To another question, he said he had his doubt whether the Supreme Court has the authority to direct Parliament to meet, or a parliamentary committee to meet.

“That would be a serious encroachment of the rights of Parliament. But, I think, public pressure must be brought upon the presiding officers to call a meeting. If not a parliamentary, at least, the standing committee,” the former union minister said while noting that what is the secret about discussing a pandemic as it was not a danger to national security.

Opposition leaders have been demanding that the meetings of parliamentary standing committees be allowed to be held virtually during the pandemic.

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