October 4, 2022

Silence in the Parliament

In the recent monsoon session, the government decided to suspend the Question Hour given the situation of COVID-19 in the Country.

As India walks out of 2020 it leaves behind a trail of rare events which will be discussed in history for years. Pandemic, Lockdown, China, famous suicide, cremation, farmer’s protests etc.

Many of these events has raised fundamental Questions of a basic democratic structure but we have failed to address them.  Instead of answering the Questions we have found a way to silence them even in the Parliament itself, the so-called temple of Indian democracy

Removal of the Question Hour

In the recent monsoon session, the government decided to suspend the Question Hour given the situation of COVID-19 in the Country. Prior to this year Question hour has been suspended only during the National Emergency. It was never suspended during a normal session i.e., Monsoon Session.

What is Question Hour:

According to the Rules of Parliamentary Proceedings The first hour of every parliamentary sitting is slotted for the Question Hour. However, in 2014 the Question Hour was shifted in the Rajya Sabha from 11 am to 12 noon.

Proceedings:

  • During this one hour, Members of Parliament (MPs) ask questions to ministers and hold them accountable for the efforts of their respective ministries.
  • The questions can also be asked to the private members (MPs who are not ministers).
  • The presiding officers of the both Houses (Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha) are the final authority with respect to the conduct of Question Hour.

Types of Questions:

There are three types of questions asked.

  • Starred question (distinguished by an asterisk)- this requires an oral answer and hence supplementary questions can follow.
  • Unstarred question- this requires a written answer and hence, supplementary questions cannot follow.
  • Short notice question is one that is asked by giving a notice of less than ten days. It is answered orally.

Exception related to Question Hour:

The Question hour is held every day for a session in both the houses of the parliament. However, there are two days when an exception is made i.e., no Question Hour is conducted in Parliament.

  • When 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.
  • The Day when the Finance Minister of India presents the Budget

Democratic Tool

Question Hour has served the democracy since the beginning of our parliamentary system.

It has managed bring out flaws in policies and served as a tool to make the ministers accountable to the parliament. Question Hour has brought many scams to the light of parliament and also brought checks on Government policies which hurting public domain.

It was always considered as the fundamental part of the voice of the people through their representatives.

By removing the Question hour, the Government taken away the right of Opposition to Question the government.

It has put itself in a situation where it is being considered that Government cannot make any default so there is no need for a Question Hour session.

Flawed Democracy

In Latest Democracy index 2019 (issued by the Economist Intelligence Unit) India finds its position (51st) in the Category of “flawed democracy”. India has slipped 10 places in the Global rankings which shows things are not going in a democratic manner in the nation.

Way Forward

The Constitution of India describes that Government is accountable to the Parliament hence the Government should not try get away from this responsibility and accountability.

The basic function of a Parliamentary session is to debate and discuss various issues through Questions raised by the members. If you remove the Questioning part, this proceeding will merely be a well scripted commentary with no accountability of the facts narrated.