Question Hour and Zero Hour
About Question Hour
The first hour of every parliamentary sitting is slotted for the Question Hour. During this one hour, Members of Parliament (MPs) ask questions to ministers and hold them accountable for the functioning of their ministries.
It is mentioned in the Rules of Procedure of the House.
The questions are of three kinds, namely, starred, unstarred and short notice.
- A starred question (distinguished by an asterisk) requires an oral answer and hence supplementary questions can follow.
- An unstarred question, on the other hand, requires a written answer and hence, supplementary questions cannot follow.
- A short notice question is one that is asked by giving a notice of less than ten days. It is answered orally.
- In addition to the ministers, the questions can also be asked to the private members (MPs who are not ministers).
- Regulation: The presiding officers of the both Houses are the final authority with respect to the conduct of Question Hour.
- The ‘Question Hour’ is an important part of the parliamentary proceedings and has assumed greater importance because the members can elicit information through questions on matters affecting the day-to-day life of the citizens for which Ministers are collectively and severally answerable to the legislature.
- This parliamentary device, in fact, is primarily meant for exercising a kind of legislative control over executive actions.
- With the broadcasting of Question Hour since 1991, Question Hour has become one the most visible aspects of parliamentary functioning.
- Besides, the Members also find an opportunity through this device to criticise Government’s policies and programmes; ventilate public grievances; expose Government’s lapses; and extract promises from Ministers.
About Zero Hour
- Unlike the question hour, the zero hour is not mentioned in the Rules of Procedure.
- Thus it is an informal device available to the members of the Parliament to raise matters without any prior notice.
- The zero hour starts immediately after the question hour and lasts until the agenda for the day (ie, regular business of the House) is taken up.
- In other words, the time gap between the question hour and the agenda is known as zero hour. It is an Indian innovation in the field of parliamentary procedures and has been in existence since 1962.
Why in News?
The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats notified that there will be no Question Hour during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, and that Zero Hour will be restricted in both Houses.
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