No Question Hour in Parliament: No pressure to give answers?

Opposition objects to cancellation, as Government cites Covid-19 as reason


It is perhaps for the first time in the Indian Parliament’s history that there will be no Question Hour in the Monsoon Session that is set to begin on September 14. The first hour of the session is called the Question Hour. The title is self explanatory as this is when Members of Parliament (MPs) can raise any questions and seek answers from concerned ministers. According to information provided on Lok Sabha website itself,  the Question Hour “has a special significance in the proceedings of the Parliament. Asking of questions is an inherent and unfettered parliamentary right of members. It is during the Question Hour that the members can ask questions on every aspect of administration and Governmental activity. Government policies in national as well as international spheres come into sharp focus as the members try to elicit pertinent information during the Question Hour.” 

The Government is, in a way, states its own portal, “put on trial” during the Question Hour and every Minister whose turn it is to answer questions has to stand up and answer for his or his administration’s acts of omission and commission.” The Question Hour it states aids the Government “to quickly feel the pulse of the nation and adapt its policies and actions accordingly. It is through questions in the Parliament that the Government remains in touch with the people in as much as members are enabled thereby to ventilate the grievances of the public in matters concerning the administration. Questions enable Ministries to gauge the popular reaction to their policy and administration. Questions bring to the notice of the Ministers many loopholes which otherwise would have gone unnoticed. Sometimes questions may lead to the appointment of a Commission, a Court of Enquiry or even Legislation when matters raised by Members are grave enough to agitate the public mind and are of wide public importance.” For the general public, it is also interesting to watch a live telecast of how the government functions, and to see if issues impacting the public are discussed by the elected representatives during this hour

However, all that is mere theory this session, as the Question Hour  has been done away with completely. After objections were raised by politicians including Rajya Sabha Member Derek O’Brien who accused the government of  using the Covid-19 Pandemic as an “excuse to murder democracy.”



Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said he predicted “four months ago that strongmen leaders would use the excuse of the pandemic to stifle democracy&dissent. The notification for the delayed Parliament session blandly announces there will be no Question Hour. How can this be justified in the name of keeping us safe?” 


In damage control mode the government has attempted to explain that it “will be difficult to schedule the Question Hour in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic,” stated a report in the Hindustan Times. According to the news report, it is none other than Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh who spoke to opposition leaders, including Ghulam Nabi Azad and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of the Congress and Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool Congress.

The report states that Chowdhury confirmed that Singh called him “and informed him that it will not be possible to schedule the Question Hour because it would require the presence of a large number of officials in Parliament to brief ministers.” However, Rajnath  Singh reported “assured” that the government “will try to accommodate the opposition’s demand for the Zero Hour to continue so that members can raise urgent matters.”

Zero Hour, follows Question Hour, and is the time before the beginning of the “regular listed business in the House”, when MPs can “raise matters of public importance on the floor of the House”. It begins at 12 noon, hence the name, but can last as long as the Speaker permits so that all issues raised can be discussed.

According to HT, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, had written to Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla last week, urging him not to do away with Question Hour and Zero Hour during the monsoon session. “You will kindly appreciate the fact that raising questions in Parliament, and issues of public importance during the Zero Hour are foremost of the procedural methods available to Members to vent issues of national and public interest,” the HT quotes from Chowdhury’s  letter. He added, “Curtailing the Question Hour and the Zero Hour by way of restricting the number of issues that could be raised and time earmarked would, therefore, not be in the interest of elected representatives.” 

Many other political leaders, and parties have also criticised the cancellation of Question Hour.



Meanwhile, in an unrelated development, the comment section has been disabled on the YouTube channel of PMO India. This means that no one can comment on the videos of this YouTube channel. This perhaps follows the massive dislikes that carpet bombed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 15th Episode of ‘Mann Ki Baat 2.0’ that aired on Sunday August 30. On the BJP channel the dislikes have crossed 10 lakhs.

As expected the BJP’s IT department too has been in damage control mode and floated many theories including blaming bots, and the party’s political opposition. Public image, especially online, is clearly causing some stress to the ruling party’s IT cell. Perhaps, to see opposition MPs firing difficult questions to Ministers in Parliament during Question Hour would have added to it.


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