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Indian Parliament may have one of its fewest sittings in 2020, as the national capital reels under the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to PRS Legislative Research, the Parliament had just 33 sittings in 2020, including 23 in the budget session and 10 in the monsoon session. While the budget session in March was cut by nearly 10 days, an already truncated monsoon session in September was reduced by eight days.

The cabinet committee on parliamentary affairs (CCPA) will decide on the conduct of the winter session in the coming days.

A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader said these are extraordinary circumstances that call for extraordinary decisions to protect people.

Disrupted sessions
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Disrupted sessions

“Constitutionally speaking, the time gap between two sessions cannot be more than six months and the Parliament has to be convened; so, the Union government has already convened monsoon session. But we should also understand that these are extraordinary circumstances and there is third wave of covid-19 in Delhi. It is time to take some tough decisions," said another senior BJP leader and parliamentarian.

Members of the Union government said top ministers will reach out to leaders of political parties in Parliament to inform them about the circumstances and the decision about the Parliament session.

“This should be a collective decision and the Union government and senior ministers would convey the decision to all political parties. We had witnessed that some people got affected due to covid-19 during the monsoon session, which included staffers of Parliament. We should be careful while making these decisions," the BJP leader cited above added.

An analysis of data by PRS Legislative Research beginning 1952 shows the Lok Sabha met for under 50 days just twice before—in 2008 for 46 sittings and in 2004 for 48 sittings, while the Rajya Sabha thrice before—in 2004 and 2008 for 46 sittings and in 1999 for 48 sittings. The maximum was in 1956—Lok Sabha with 151 sittings and Rajya Sabha with 113.

“There is a need to insulate the functioning of Parliament from externalities which can be anticipated, such as elections in states and unforeseen ones like the pandemic this year. Anticipated externalities can be dealt with by having longer sittings of Parliament which are planned in advance. For the unforeseen ones, the parliamentary rules can be relaxed to allow its functioning with reduced number of members of Parliament (MPs) or the full strength of MPs convening in a hybrid manner," said Chakshu Roy, who heads the outreach team at PRS Legislative Research.

Roy added the delay in winter session and fewer sittings impact the legislative agenda, including bills referred to parliamentary committees such as DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill; Personal Data Protection Bill and Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill. He said there are also pending legislation such as the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill and the Dam Safety Bill.

The monsoon session of Parliament ended on 24 September, and there has been a growing demand from Opposition parties that the winter session should be held on time to discuss key issues including the covid-19 pandemic and progress on the vaccine.

More than 134,000 people in the country have died because of covid-19.

Delhi, which is the seat of Parliament, is one of the worst affected by the pandemic as it recorded 6,224 confirmed cases and 109 deaths on Tuesday.

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