The functioning of Parliament and administration of the Parliament complex – which comes under the Speaker’s ambit – has undergone several changes after Om Birla took over as Lok Sabha Speaker in 2019. The overall efficiency of the Lower House has increased, and many steps have been taken to harness technology. The House and secretariat are gradually moving towards a paperless office. Questions and answers as well as other documents are made available to members virtually, debate clips are accessible through the digital library, and a process to link state assemblies with Parliament online has begun. Birla spoke to ET’s Rakesh Mohan Chaturvedi about various issues related to how Parliament was run over the last three years. Edited excerpts:
Will the restrictions and alterations made during the Covid-19 pandemic be visible in the forthcoming monsoon session as well?
Covid-19 cases have shot up again. So, we will consult the Rajya Sabha chairman and (medical) experts, and based on that, we will plan out the work. But both the Houses will function simultaneously and not in morning-evening shifts.
The Opposition has been aggressive in the House, leading to adjournments and suspensions. Where do you think the issues stand today?
The Opposition can present its point of view, debate and discuss. But I have always said the display of placards and sloganeering should not be done. You can raise objections and state your views from your seat. But it is not right to come to the Well of the House and raise slogans. The House is run with the support of the Opposition. Its role should be positive though agreements-disagreements are fine.
Some members are of the view that the Chair is at times partial. Your views?
I don’t think any prominent leader has said so in the last three years. One or two members of some parties – individuals, not leaders of the party – may have some objections on a few issues. The House runs on rules and principles. Broadly speaking, nobody has made any such remark.
There is also criticism that Bills are not being sent to the Standing Committees for scrutiny and that important Bills are passed within a day.
It is not that Bills are not being sent to Standing Committees. There are many Bills that the government believes should be passed promptly so that people get swift justice or rights.
Any government of any party brings Bills to give rights to people, bring transparency, and make the executive accountable.
There have been conflicts within some Standing Committees. BJP MP Nishikant Dubey wrote to you seeking impeachment of IT panel chairperson Shashi Tharoor. There have been other cases.
Issues come up in Standing Committees and there may be agreements-disagreements between members.