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Photo: Mint
Photo: Mint

Tussle over confidentiality clause derails panel meeting proposal

  • Parliamentary committee meetings cannot be held by videoconference as confidentiality clause forbids it
  • A section of opposition leaders wanted the home secretary to be called before House committee over confidentiality clause

NEW DELHI : Efforts by both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats to hold parliamentary committee meetings via videoconferencing have not yielded results so far with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Opposition failing to reach a consensus over the confidentiality clause.

Earlier this month, secretary generals of both Houses were directed by Rajya Sabha chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to examine the pros and cons of holding such meetings, but officials aware of developments said a number of differences are yet to be ironed out.

The process was further derailed after a section of opposition leaders led by the Congress demanded that the home secretary be called before a parliamentary committee over concerns that the confidentiality clause may be diluted in the event of holding virtual meetings.

“Initially discussions were going on well, but the problem started when some members of the Congress and other opposition parties started demanding that home secretary should be called before the parliamentary committee and the government should respond about PMCares fund. Members of the BJP felt that the committee no longer be non-political," said a senior leader of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), requesting anonymity.

Rules state, parliamentary committee meetings cannot be held by videoconferencing owing to the confidentiality clause. But, some members argued such committees must continue via videoconferencing.

A committee has already been formed to look into it the issue. “We circulated the draft report on issues related to labour through emails and received both recent notes and other suggestions. The meeting was also held through videoconferencing and a final report also submitted. There are at least 33 countries that have used videoconferencing to hold parliamentary meetings. I think maybe it is time for us to also look at it. I have written a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker," said Bhartruhari Mahtab, the chairperson of the parliamentary committee on labour. Some opposition party leaders have also written in favour of holding such meetings to discuss pressing issues such as the impact of the covid-19-led national lockdown.

gyan.v@livemint.com

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