No Question Hour in Monsoon Session; 'govt reducing Parliament to noticeboard', says Opposition
There will be no Question Hour in in the upcoming Monsoon Session of Parliament. Notifications issued by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats said that private members' bills will also not be taken up
There will be no Question Hour and private members' bills will not be taken up in the upcoming Monsoon Session of Parliament, while the Zero Hour will be restricted, notifications issued by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats said on Wednesday.
The Monsoon Session will be held from 14 September to 1 October.
"There will be no Question Hour during the Session. In view of the request of the Government owing to prevailing extraordinary situation due to COVID-19, the Speaker has directed that no day be fixed for transaction of Private Members' Business during the Session," the Lok Sabha Secretariat said in a notification.
A similar notification has also been issued by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat as well.
The notification on the suspension of Question Hour in both Houses during the upcoming Session of the Parliament led to a chorus of protests by Opposition leaders across party lines.
Trinamool Congress MP and Floor Leader in Rajya Sabha Derek O'Brien said Opposition MPs will lose the right to question the government.
"Pandemic an excuse to murder democracy," he said in a tweet.
MPs required to submit Qs for Question Hour in #Parliament 15 days in advance. Session starts 14 Sept. So Q Hour cancelled ? Oppn MPs lose right to Q govt. A first since 1950 ? Parliament overall working hours remain same so why cancel Q Hour?Pandemic excuse to murder democracy
— Derek O'Brien | ডেরেক ও'ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) September 2, 2020
In a similar vein, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said, "I said four months ago that strongmen leaders would use the excuse of the pandemic to stifle democracy and 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? Questioning the government is the oxygen of parliamentary democracy. This government seeks to reduce Parliament to a noticeboard 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."
The Congress also criticised the decision on its official Twitter handle. It said:
Questioning the Govt. is the life-blood of parliamentary democracy.
By doing away with this tool of accountability, the BJP Govt. seeks to pass laws without any discussion & debate.
It is an attempt to stifle democracy under the garb of the pandemic.https://t.co/TfMCDdQ9Bj
— Congress (@INCIndia) September 2, 2020
DMK MP Kanimozhi said, "The BJP government's decision to suspend the Question Hour for an entire session conveys just one message – 'Even elected representatives have no right to question the government'."
Meanwhile, PTI quoted sources as saying that the government has reached out to the Opposition, sharing its compulsions to not hold the Question Hour in the wake of the pandemic.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has called up several opposition leaders, including Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Biju Janata Dal's Pinaki Misra and O'Brien.
Other changes in procedure
Apart from the suspension of Question Hour, other modification in parliamentary procedures have also been introduced on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be no breaks during the session, and both Houses will function on Saturdays and Sundays as well, they said.
In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the session will be held in two shifts — 9 am to 1 pm and 3 pm to 7 pm.
Except for the first day, the Rajya Sabha will sit in the morning shift and the Lok Sabha will sit in the evening, according to the notifications.
With inputs from PTI
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