Online Parliamentary Functioning

  • IASbaba
  • April 21, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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Topic: General Studies 2 & 3:

  • Parliament and State legislatures—conduct of business 
  • Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life. 

Online Parliamentary Functioning

Context: In the wake of lockdown imposed due to COVID-19 pandemic and the next session of Parliament a few months away, there is an opportunity for holding an online session should the need so arise.

Do You Know?

  • For the very first time, 12 MPs of the joint committee on salary and allowances met virtually (online) on 6th April 2020 and recommended 30% reduction in the constituency and office allowances of MPs
  • Unlike other Parliamentary Committees, this committee was set up in 1954 under the Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament Act

Is Parliament mandated to meet physically?

  • No, Indian parliamentary rules do not require MPs to meet physically at the Parliament House.
  • The only requirement for a duly constituted sitting of a house is that it be presided over by the chairman/speaker or any authorised MP. 
  • On matters which are not apparent in the rules, Chairman/Speaker have the residuary power to decide on them.

Importance of Parliamentary Committees

  • The working of these committees ensure that legislature keeps the executive accountable even when the Parliament is not in session
  • These have regained Significance during the lockdown
    • Two committees are scrutinising pending bills on issues related to labour and regulation of personal data. 
    • Both these issues are important and have gained prominence during the ongoing pandemic
  • The Speaker has the discretion to allow the parliamentary committees to meet outside the House or meet virtually so as to ensure accountability in governance

What has been the trend in other countries?

Across the world, legislatures are using a combination of technology, physical separation and reduced physical presence to continue their work

  • Brazil: Its parliament passed a resolution to work remotely during the public health emergency. 
  • Chile: The Senate has passed a law to allow it to meet remotely using appropriate video conferencing technology. 
  • In Indonesia and Maldives, a sitting of the parliament has happened remotely. 
  • UK has suggested a hybrid model of virtual and physical presence. 
    • Some MPs can participate in certain house proceedings via video conferencing 
    • While few of them can be in the house physically under social distancing guidelines.

Merits of Online Parliamentary Proceedings

  • Saves travel time for legislators
  • Saves financial resources spent on housing & travel allowances
  • Works as a role model to adopt digital technologies
  • Allows more time for legislators to interact with their constituency

Challenges with regard to Online Parliamentary Proceedings

  • Robust technology which works without much interruption
  • Need for setting up of protocols for ensuring participation
  • Cyber security issues 
  • Inadequate digital infrastructure especially in Tribal & North-East region

Connecting the dots:

  • Digital India Programme
  • Issue of Net neutrality

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