New Delhi: The upcoming monsoon session of Parliament, likely to start from the second week of September, may see several new features in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic. Though all precautions will be taken, all members of Parliament will have to follow Covid-19 protocols. Sources said the secretariat has been directed to put in place large display screens, consoles, special cables between the two House chambers and ultraviolet germicidal irradiation to prevent infections, besides separating the galleries with polycarbonate sheets.

All parliamentarians will be required to have Aarogya Setu mobile application on their phones and arrangements will be made for screening and sanitization.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi visited the chambers of both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha this week to review the preparations for the session and the modifications made.

Though no date has been finalised yet for the start of the session, sources said the session may begin in the second week of September. Normally, there is a 14-day gap between the announcement and commencement of the Parliament session.

In order to maintain physical distancing, a new sitting plan is expected for both the Houses, sources said. There is also no clarity on whether the two Houses will meet daily or on alternate days. There is also the possibility of Lok Sabha meetings to be held in the morning and Rajya Sabha in the afternoon. Both chambers and galleries can be used to accommodate members while following physical distancing norms. Sources said no guests will be allowed in this session and there will be restricted entry for media.

The last budget session had ended on 23 March. As per precedent, Parliament session needs to be held before the end of six months from the last session. Thus, the monsoon session has to be held before 23 September. The budget session had to be curtailed in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rajya Sabha Chairman and Vice President Venkaiah Naidu had a meeting with Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla on 17 July to discuss arrangements to be made for the Parliament session. Some MPs had expressed apprehensions about attending the Parliament proceedings in the wake of increasing Covid-19 cases. They had expressed their opinion to hold the session through videoconferencing. However, source said there are constraints regarding voting, adjournments etc.

The members will be allotted seats in various places based on the respective strength of the political parties. Besides the PM and leader of the Opposition, seats in the Rajya Sabha chamber will also be allotted to former PMs Manmohan Singh and H.D. Deve Gowda.