Enough space for physical distancing in Parliament

MB Subba  

Both the Houses of Parliament have enough space to hold sessions by World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, a distance of one metre should be maintained between two persons to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The main concern is about holding joint sessions as it involves members of both Houses. The parliament has 72 members—47 from National Assembly and 25 from National Council.

Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel said that there was enough space to accommodate members of both Houses by extending the sitting arrangement.

He hinted that some members could sit in the gallery to create some distance after each member. He said that the National Assembly was looking into such issues.

National Council’s Deputy Speaker Jigme Wangchuk said that the House also had enough space to maintain a distance of one metre between two members. “We don’t have issues about lack of space.”

The winter session is yet to be formally closed, which means that the bills passed by the session are not implemented. Tourism Levy Bill, various Tax Bills and Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) are among the important Bills passed by the winter session.

The parliament had set March 6 as the closing day but the first Covid-19 case in the country was announced on the same day forcing the postponement of the closing ceremony.

Members have also not taken any constituency visits to divert the TA/DA budgets to the Covid-19 fund and because of the social distancing rules.

According to the parliamentary rules, a member should visit his or her constituency at least once after every session.

Parliament committees, except for the joint committee on Covid-19 preparedness, have not met as part of the preparation for the upcoming session.

It is mandatory for parliament to call two sessions in a year. Unlike winter sessions, the timing of which can be adjusted, summer sessions are held on time so that the annual budget and supplementary budgets are passed coinciding with the new fiscal year.

The summer session is expected to be short.

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