NEW DELHI: In a first, some Lok Sabha members attended the House proceedings on Monday while seated in the Rajya Sabha chamber as Parliament met for the Monsoon session amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaker Om Birla said in Lok Sabha that rules and procedures have been eased to allow Lok Sabha members sit in the upper house and Rajya Sabha members occupy seats in lower house due to social distancing norms.
While Lok Sabha is meeting between 9 am and 1 pm on Monday, Rajya Sabha will assemble between 3 pm and 7 pm.
Tuesday onwards, Rajya Sabha will meet in the morning and Lok Sabha in the afternoon.
He said as part of the procedures, the chambers of the two Houses and the galleries where members are seated will be considered as part of Lok Sabha when the House proceedings are on.
He said this is perhaps for the first time that such an arrangement had been put in place.
Birla said members do not have to stand while speaking as part of the new procedures put in place to contain the spread of coronavirus.
In a lighter vein, he said some may find it difficult to speak while sitting.
While nearly 200 members were present in the Lok Sabha chamber, a little over 50 were seated in the visitors' gallery located above the main chamber.
When the House met at 9 am, the number of members present was less.
But the numbers went up when the House reassembled at around 10.20 am after a one hour adjournment after paying tributes to former president Pranab Mukherjee, a sitting MP and 13 former members who died in the recent past.
Unlike in the past, there were no opposition protests in the Well of the House, which is otherwise a usual occurrence on day one of the session as soon as the House assembles.
A giant TV screen in the Lok Sabha chamber showed very few Lok Sabha members were occupying seats in the Rajya Sabha chamber.
Benches which usually accommodate six members had a numbered sitting plan for only three.
Glass-like plastic shields of varied sizes were installed in front of benches to protect members from coronavirus.
The shield also covered part of the members' sides.
The front seats of the Treasury benches on the right of the Speaker's podium were occupied by Prime Minister Narendra Modi sitting on a seat marked as number one, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on seat number 2 and Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on seat number 3.
The front seats of the Opposition benches were occupied by T R Baalu of the DMK and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of the Congress.
National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah was also present and was seated in the second row of opposition benches.
As soon as the prime minister entered the House, he was greeted with claps and "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" slogan.
Modi greeted members, including those from the Opposition, with folded hands.
All members were wearing masks.
Some were also seen wearing face shields, including Trinamool Congress leader Kalyan Banerjee.