Question Hour And Zero Hour
- Recently, in view of ongoing pandemic and a truncated Monsoon Session, Parliament has notified that there will be no Question Hour during the Monsoon Session of Parliament and that Zero Hour will be restricted in both Houses.
- Opposition MPs have criticised the move, saying they will lose the right to question the government.
- During this hour Members of Parliament (MP) ask questions to ministers and hold them accountable for the functioning of their ministries.
- The questions that MPs ask are designed to elicit information and trigger suitable action by ministries.
- However, questions can also be asked to the private members (MPs who are not ministers).
- Usually Question Hour is the first hour of a parliamentary sitting.
- Parliament has comprehensive rules for dealing with every aspect of Question Hour.
- The presiding officers of the two houses are the final authority with respect to the conduct of Question Hour.
Types of Questions Asked
Short Notice Questions
Questions to Private Members
- Now, Question Hour in both Houses is held on all days of the session. But there are two days when an exception is made.
- There is no Question Hour on the day the President addresses MPs from both Houses in the Central Hall.
- Question Hour is not scheduled either on the day the Finance Minister presents the Budget.
Half an hour Discussion
Nature of Questions Asked
- Parliamentary rules provide guidelines on the kind of questions that can be asked by MPs.
- The question should also be related to an area of responsibility of the Government of India.
- Questions should not seek information about matters that are secret or are under adjudication before courts.
- It is the presiding officers of the two Houses who finally decide whether a question raised by an MP will be admitted for answering by the government.
- To streamline the answering of questions raised by MPs, the ministries are put into five groups.
- Each group answers questions on the day allocated to it.
- This grouping of ministries is different for the two Houses so that ministers can be present in one house to answer questions.
Limitation to Number of Questions Asked
- In Lok Sabha, until the late 1960s, there was no limit on the number of unstarred questions that could be asked in a day.
- Now, Parliament rules 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.
- It is during the Question Hour that Members can ask questions on every aspect of administration and governmental activity.
- Government policies in the national as well as international spheres come into sharp focus as the Members try to elicit pertinent information during the Question Hour.
- It has helped to expose financial irregularities and brought data and information.
Recent Procedural Changes