New Delhi: The Opposition was left red-faced on the first day of Parliament when Defence Minister and Deputy Leader of the House Rajnath Singh said all parties who were questioning the suspension of the Question Hour had agreed to it when he had sought their approval.
An 18-day Monsoon Session of Parliament started Monday with all safety measures and precautions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Opposition is upset over the fact that only written questions and answers will be allowed instead of Question Hour.
“Since the session will run for hours, we had requested that the Question Hour should be suspended. Instead, I said that an 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.
He said he had spoken to Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury in the matter and he had agreed to it.
“These are extraordinary times. Most political leaders had agreed to this arrangement. Unstarred Questions are being allowed. If you are not satisfied with the answer, you can raise it during Zero Hour,” said Singh.
Not a unanimous decision
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.
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.
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 the glamour of running the Parliament,” he said.
Congress floor leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury 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 added that the government was trying to strangulate the democracy by doing away with it.
“When the House can run, why not have Question Hour?” he asked.
AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi also urged the Speaker not to allow the executive to encroach the powers of the legislature and termed the Question Hour as the cornerstone of democracy.
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 West Bengal, Rajasthan have run the session for 2 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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