Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and others pay tribute to ex-President Pranab Mukherjee, legendary Indian classical vocalist Pandit Jasraj and others who passed away this year, during the opening day of Parliament's Monsoon Session amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, at Parliament House in New Delhi, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Amid Opposition protests, Lok Sabha nod to suspend Question Hour

Government cites shorter hours of sittings.


The Lok Sabha on Monday adopted a motion to do away with Question Hour and private members’ business during the current Monsoon Session, but not without facing a push back from Opposition benches, who termed it the Executive prevailing over the Legislature and violating norms of separation of powers. 

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi moved the motion in the Lok Sabha citing the extraordinary circumstances amid which the House was being convened, and the allotted four-hour sittings per day. 

The Opposition refused to be convinced, however, with Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury terming Question Hour as the “golden hour” of the House.

Also read: Parliament proceedings live | MP Harivansh elected as Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha

“We get a chance to raise issues of common people. Question Hour is simply a golden hour of the House,” he said, adding that by doing way with it, the government is trying to suppress this democratic practice which has been followed since Independence.

‘Cornerstone of democracy’

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen MP Asaduddin Owaisi said Question Hour and private members' business were the cornerstone of democracy and were essential for the existence of parliamentary democracy.

“I urge the Speaker not to allow the executive to encroach on the territory of the legislature. It is a shameful day,” Mr Owaisi said. He also requested for a division on the motion, which was not accepted by Speaker Om Birla. Congress MP Manish Tewari said Question Hour was the only time when the Opposition could hold the government accountable. 

TMC MP Kalyan Banerjee said Question Hour is an integral part of the basic structure of parliamentary procedure and “we cannot destroy that part”.

A politics of avoidance that must be questioned

“We also have our views to express,” Mr. Banerjee said adding, “kindly do not take away this advantage. It will take the entire glamour, 50% glamour of running Parliament.”

Mr Joshi, however, pointed out that before arriving at this decision, deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had spoken to almost all leaders of various parties.

“I would like to ask various leaders who questioned the suspension of Question Hour that all State assemblies including Punjab, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala have run sessions for a day or two and passed several bills, whereas the government of India decided to run for 18 days and hold discussion on bills,” he said. 

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said he had discussed the matter with several leaders and noted that this session is being held in an extraordinary situation, adding that Mr. Choudhary had agreed with the proposal to do away with Question Hour.

Also read | Parliament stifled, business, and a word of advice

“We need support from all,” he said as “the House will run only for four hours.” 

“If somebody wants to ask a question, they can do so during the Zero Hour,” added Mr Singh. The motion was carried by voice vote with Speaker Om Birla assuring members that he would give sufficient time to the Opposition to ask questions.