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No Question Hour during the Monsoon Session

No Question Hour during the Monsoon Session

Context:

The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats notified that there will be no Question Hour during the Monsoon Session of Parliament this year. Since the beginning of the current Lok Sabha, around 15,000 questions have been asked in Lok Sabha.

  • Opposition MPs have criticized the move, saying they will lose the right to question the government.

Question Hour:

  • During Question Hour (one hour) Members of Parliament ask questions of ministers and hold them accountable for the functioning of their ministries. 
  • MPs have used this parliamentary device to shine a light on government functioning.
  • With the broadcasting of Question Hour since 1991, Question Hour has become one of the most visible aspects of parliamentary functioning.

Zero Hour:

  • While Question Hour is strictly regulated, Zero Hour is an Indian parliamentary innovation. Zero Hour does not find mention in the rules of procedure.
  • The concept of Zero Hour started organically in the first decade of the Indian Parliament when MPs felt the need for raising important constituency and national issues.
  • The opportunity for MPs to raise national issues without an advance notice became available at 12 pm and could last for an hour until the House adjourned for lunch. This hour popularly referred to as Zero Hour and the issues being raised during this time as Zero Hour submissions. 

Regulation of Question Hour:

  • Parliament has comprehensive rules for dealing with Question Hour. The presiding officers of the two houses are the final authority with respect to the conduct of Question Hour.
    • For example, usually, Question Hour is the first hour of a parliamentary sitting. In 2014, to prevent the disruption of Question Hour Rajya Sabha Chairman shifted Question Hour in the House from 11 am to 12 noon. 

kind of questions:

  • As per the Parliamentary rules, questions have to be limited to 150 words. Questions have to be precise and not too general.
  • Questions should not seek information about matters that are secret or are under adjudication before courts.
  • Presiding officers of both the Houses finally decide whether a question raised by an MP will be admitted for answering by the government.

Frequency of Question Hour:

  • In 1952, Lok Sabha rules provided for Question Hour to be held every day. Rajya Sabha had a provision for Question Hour for two days a week.
  • After a few years, this was changed to four days a week. Then from 1964, Question Hour was taking place in Rajya Sabha on every day of the session.
  • Now, Question Hour in both Houses is held on all days of the session.
  • However, there are two days when an exception is made these are:
    • The day the President addresses MPs: There is no Question Hour on the day the President addresses MPs from both Houses. The President’s speech takes place at the beginning of a new Lok Sabha and on the first day of a new Parliament year.
    • On the day the Finance Minister presents the Budget: Question Hour is not scheduled either on the day the Finance Minister presents the Budget.

Time for questions:

  • In 15-day advance, Ministries receive the questions so that they can prepare their ministers for Question Hour.
  • Governments officers can pass notes or relevant documents to support the minister in answering a question.
  • When MPs give answers about government functioning, they prefer the responses to such queries in writing. These questions are referred to as unstarred questions. The responses to these questions are placed on the table of Parliament.
  • MPs can also ask a question to a minister at a notice period shorter than 15 days.

Limitations on the number of questions:

  • In Lok Sabha, until the 1960s, there was no limit on the number of unstarred questions that could be asked in a day.
  • Now, Parliament limit the number of starred and unstarred questions an MP can ask in a day.
  • The total number of questions asked by MPs in the starred and unstarred categories are then put in a random ballot. From the ballot in Lok Sabha, 20 starred questions are picked for answering during Question Hour and 230 are picked for written answers. 

Source: Indian Express