NEW DELHI: With the government deciding to do away with the Question Hour during the monsoon session starting September 14, several MPs attacked the centre saying it has never been done away with in the history of independent India and reflect the autocratic mindset of the government.
MPs from the opposition parties questioned the government for denying their rights to seek answers from the government on important issues ranging from Covid-19, lockdown, economy, job crisis, and trouble with China at the LAC among others.
According to notifications issued by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats, there will be no Question Hour and private members bills will not be taken up in the Monsoon session, while the Zero Hour will be restricted. The 18-day session will see both houses sitting in during four morning and evening shifts and working on weekends. The session ends on October 1.
The Lok Sabha will sit from 9 am-1 pm (on September 14) and Rajya Sabha on 3 pm-7 pm and after that, the upper house will meet in the morning and lower during the second session.
"MPs required to submit questions for Question Hour in Parliament 15 days in advance. Session starts September 14. So Question Hour cancelled? Opposition MPs lose the right to question the government. A first since 1950? Parliament overall working hours remain the same so why cancel Question Hour? Pandemic excuse to murder democracy," tweeted TMC MP Derek O'Brien.
“During the 33rd (1961), 93rd (1975), 98th (1976) and 99th (1977) sessions, there was no Question Hour as these sessions were summoned for special purposes: Orissa, Proclamation of Emergency, 44th Amendment, President’s Rule TN/Nagaland. The upcoming Monsoon Session is a regular session. More instances of sessions called for SPECIAL PURPOSES when no QH was held: 41st (during Chinese aggression), 201st & 216th (only President’s Address). Coming up is a REGULAR monsoon session of two weeks. So why the exception?” said Brien, Leader of TMC parliamentary party in Rajya Sabha.
The Congress said that questioning the government is the life-blood of parliamentary democracy and by doing away with this tool of accountability, the BJP government seeks to pass laws without any discussion and debate and is an attempt to stifle democracy under the garb of the pandemic.
“If this is true, it is not just a violation of a member’s right, but it also means that the Government is uncomfortable answering questions on their Governance. Government is answerable to people and any move to cancel Question Hour reflects the autocratic mindset of Government,” said senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Mallikarjun Kharge.
Stressing that questioning the government is the oxygen of parliamentary democracy, Congress Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “I said four months ago that strongmen leaders would use the excuse of the pandemic to stifle democracy and dissent. This Govt seeks to reduce Parliament to a notice-board and uses its crushing majority as a rubber-stamp for whatever it wants to pass. The one mechanism to promote accountability has now been done away with.”
AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi said that the government should have called for an all-party meeting before deciding on the matter.
“Even during the exceptional situation of the 1962 India-China war, Question Hour was suspended only after the All Party Meeting (APM). In this case, the Prime Minister of India didn't hold an APM. When Standing Committee meetings are being held and even JEE/NEET, why not an APM to consult us before Parliament?” he tweeted.
DMK MP Kanimozhi said that the decision conveys just one message: “Even elected representatives have no right to question the government”. CPI leader Binoy Viswam wrote to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu saying, Question Hour and Zero Hour are integral to the democratic functioning of Parliament and have never been done away with in the history of independent India.
“By introducing these changes, the government has effectively ensured that its accountability to Parliament and to the people is done away with,” he added.