Shashi Tharoor says he intends to explore ways of doing the work by email for now. (File)
Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Wednesday said Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla has informed him that parliamentary committees cannot meet virtually without the rules being formally amended and asserted that this has stymied the prospects of "meaningful oversight" of the government's actions.
His remarks come days after it emerged that a meeting of the parliamentary panel on Information Technology, headed by Mr Tharoor, was scheduled for June 17 during which officials of the information and technology ministry were to be called for a briefing on the government's coronavirus-tracking Aarogya Setu application and related issues of data security and privacy of citizens.
Earlier, it was stated that the IT panel will meet virtually or in person on June 17, but after clarity on the issue of holding panel meetings via video conferencing and an in-person session not possible amid rising COVID-19 cases, the meeting was cancelled, sources said.
"Speaker Om Birla informed me today that Parliamentary Committees cannot meet virtually without the rules being formally amended, under a procedure that will involve the Rules Committee and be passed by the whole Parliament. This has stymied the prospects of meaningful oversight," Mr Tharoor tweeted.
"Parliamentary accountability is at the heart of our constitutional system of democracy. Not being able to pursue it may prove to be yet another stake in that heart. I intend to explore ways of doing our work by email for now, without meetings," he said.
Sources said the panel will now ask questions from ministries via email on important issues that require parliamentary oversight. Mr Tharoor has repeatedly demanded allowing parliamentary panel meetings via video conferencing.