Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Parliamentary oversight and cancellation of question hour

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Question hour and zero hour comparison

Mains level : Paper 2- Question hour and its significance

The article highlights the significance of question hour in democracy.

Context

  • The decision to go without “Question Hour” during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, beginning September 14, has evoked serious concerns about the democratic functioning of the institution.

Significance of question hour

  • Question Hour is an opportunity for the members to raise questions,
  • It is also a parliamentary device primarily meant for exercising legislative control over executive actions.
  • It is also a device to criticise government policies and programmes, ventilate public grievances, expose the government’s lapses, extract promises from ministers.
  • In short, question hour helps to ensure accountability and transparency in governance.

Right to question the executive: Historical background

  • The right to question the executive has been exercised by members of the House from the colonial period.
  • The first Legislative Council in British India under the Charter Act, 1853, allowed members the power to ask questions to the executive.
  • The Indian Council Act of 1861 allowed members to elicit information by means of questions.
  • However, it was the Indian Council Act, 1892, which formulated the rules for asking questions including short notice questions.
  • The Indian Council Act, 1909, which incorporated provisions for asking supplementary questions by members.
  • The Montague-Chelmsford reforms brought forth a significant change in 1919 by incorporating a rule that the first hour of every meeting was earmarked for questions.
  • Parliament has continued this tradition.
  • Since 1921, the question on which a member desired to have an oral answer, was distinguished by him with an asterisk, a star.

Recent instances in which right to ask questions was curtailed

  • The government passed important bills in the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha before the formation of department-related standing committees.
  • The Constitution Amendment Bill on J&K was introduced without circulating copies to the members.
  • Several important bills were passed as Finance Bills to avoid scrutiny of the Rajya Sabha.
  • Standing committees are an extension of Parliament.
  • Any person has the right to present his/her opinion to a Bill during the process of consideration.

Consider the question “What is the significance of question hour in the context of democracy in India? What is the implication of its suspension due to pandemic?”

Conclusion

The government’s actions erode the constitutional mandate of parliamentary oversight over executive actions as envisaged under Article 75 (3) of the Indian Constitution.

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