NEW DELHI :
Question Hour has been suspended for the entire monsoon session of Parliament to abide by social distancing norms, besides no private members’ Bills will be taken up during the session, which is scheduled to be held from 14 September to 1 October. However, a curtailed Zero Hour discussion may be allowed.
This decision has drawn criticism from key opposition leaders, who feel it will deny them the opportunity to raise issues of national importance.
Responding to the criticism, the Union government on Wednesday said that all opposition parties were told beforehand about the move, with most of them agreeing to it, but added that it was not running away from debate.
Parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi told Press Trust of India that the government was ready for unstarred questions (which require written answers). “We are not running away from any debate and are ready to discuss any issue or topic which will be decided in the business advisory committee,” Joshi said, adding that there will be a Zero Hour of at least 30 minutes.
Both the Houses will sit for four hours each every day without any break.
“There will be no Question Hour during the session. In view of the request of the government owing to the prevailing extraordinary situation due to covid, the Speaker has directed that no day be fixed for transaction of private members’ business,” said a notification by the Lok Sabha Secretariat.
Opposition leaders, including those from the Congress, the TMC, the Left parties and the DMK, said the suspension of Question Hour would mean that there would be no space to ask questions of the Union government, including on topics such as the state of the economy, handling of the pandemic, the lockdown and the border standoff with China.
“Questioning the government is the oxygen of parliamentary democracy. This government seeks to reduce Parliament to a notice-board and use 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,” senior Congress leader and Lok Sabha member Shashi Tharoor posted on Twitter.