Opposition protests question hour suspension; govt says MPs had agreed

When the House can run, why not the question hour, asks Congress’ Adhir Ranjan, as Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi refers to such a step in many state assemblies

MPs on the first day of the Parliament session | Photo: PTI

Opposition MPs were upset over the suspension of question hour in the Lok Sabha on the first day of the Parliament session on Sept 14, with Congress saying the reasons cited by the government to cancel it did not seem convincing.

However, Defence Minister and deputy leader of the House Rajnath Singh said the parties who questioned the suspension of the question hour had agreed to it when he had sought their approval.

“Since the session will run for hours, we had requested that the Question Hour should be suspended. Instead, I said that a half an hour Zero Hour where MPs can raise issues would be available. I want to make a polite request and need the cooperation of the members,” Singh said in Parliament.

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He said he had spoken to Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury in the matter and he had agreed to it.

Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Congress floor leader, termed question hour as the “golden hour”, saying the reasons cited by the minister to cancel it did not seem convincing. He said question hour is regarded as the essence of parliamentary democracy, and could be interpreted as the soul of parliamentary democracy. He said the government was trying to strangulate democracy by doing away with it.

“When the House can run, why not the question hour?” he asked.

Congress leader Manish Tewari referred to the rule book and said question hour can only be suspended if the decision is unanimous, which isn’t the case currently.

Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi Monday moved a motion regarding business of the House. The motion sought suspension of the Question Hour and Private Members Bills. The motion was opposed by the Congress, TMC and AIMIM.

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Trinamool Congress member Kalyan Banerjee said the move will take away the glamour of Parliament. “This is the only time we get to ask questions and get answers from our ministers. This will take off the glamour of running the Parliament,” he said.

AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi also urged the Speaker not to allow the executive to encroach on the powers of the legislature as far as the question hour was concerned.

Responding to this, Joshi pointed out that all assemblies have suspended the Question Hour.

“Before arriving at this decision, V. Muraleedharan ji, (Arjun) Meghwal ji, Rajnath ji and I spoke to all. All assemblies including in West Bengal and Rajasthan have run the session for two days or a day and passed several bills,” said Joshi. He also referred to the Emergency period, without naming it, when Parliament was curtailed. He also mentioned how question hours were affected in the past due to disruptions.

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