MOSCOW — The new Supreme Soviet, meeting for the first time Monday, approved a sweeping legislative agenda that would overhaul the legal system and give Soviet citizens more power in virtually every aspect of society.
The deliberations were held out of earshot and sight of the Soviet public. A last-minute decision led to a ban on live television and radio coverage of the session.
The ruling, disclosed by the Tass news agency, contradicted an announcement in the weekly central television program guide, which said that proceedings would be shown live.
The two houses of the revamped Supreme Soviet, beginning its inaugural full session, approved a 21-point legislative program for the next six weeks that will consider laws affecting every sphere of life, giving citizens more say in areas ranging from courts and churches to trade unions and grass-roots government.
The future makeup of the Soviet government also was high on the agenda as lawmakers faced the task of confirming or rejecting Premier Nikolai I. Ryzhkov's handpicked Cabinet choices. Ryzhkov is scheduled to address the Parliament today on his proposed Cabinet, Tass said.
Yevgeny M. Primakov, chairman of the Soviet of the Union, one of the two houses of the Supreme Soviet, told lawmakers that President Mikhail S. Gorbachev will brief a joint session of Parliament on his trips to West Germany and France when he returns from his Paris summit in two weeks.
Previous legislatures were rubber-stamp bodies that met briefly and complacently "approved" nominees for the highest government posts, supplied by the Communist Party.
The political system was overhauled last year at a special party conference called by Gorbachev. A significant result of that landmark conference--multi-candidate parliamentary balloting held earlier this year--was preceded by boisterous election campaigns that captivated the nation.
Anatoly I. Lukyanov, first vice president of the Supreme Soviet, cautioned that the sweeping proposals on the legislative docket approved Monday are not binding in the session, scheduled to run until Aug. 4.
Lukyanov "noted that putting draft laws on the agenda does not mean that all of them should be endorsed at the current session," Tass said. "This only means that the discussion of certain draft laws has started."
But the scope of the proposed legislation was stunning.
Draft laws placed on the agenda significantly extend such basic rights as the freedom of assembly, conscience and self-government.
Some of the laws would give more rights to workers, consumers and inventors. Others prescribe massive overhauls of the Soviet criminal and tax codes.