Importance of Question Time in a parliamentary democracy

The Honorable Supreme Court in Keshavanada Bharti[1] established case that parliamentary democracy is an integral part of the basic structure of our Constitution. The basic concept of parliamentary governance is that it has a collective responsibility to parliament and that it holds government accountable. Essentially, in a parliamentary democracy, the executive is accountable to parliament. Indian democracy is entirely based on the principles of debate and discussion, the role of the opposition is very important in making laws and obliges the government to be responsible and accountable.

President of India Shri Ram Nath Kovind in the exercise of his powers under Article 85[2] of the Constitution of India on 31st August 2020 convened the fourth session of the 17e Parliament of 14e September to 1st October 2020. The order was considered controversial as the secretariats of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were informed that there would be no Question Time during the Parliament monsoon series given the current pandemic prevailing in the country.[3] The government further clarified that the opposition had been consulted before this decision was notified. Therefore, to have the consensus of the opposition too.

Both Houses of Parliament follow their own set of rules which are formulated to govern themselves. Likewise, parliament has classified questions put to parliament into different types.[4] and they are: –

  1. Questions followed: It is desirable that the answers to these questions be given orally on the floor of the House during Question Time.
  2. Questions without stars: Answers to these questions deemed to be placed on the Bureau of the Assembly are given by the ministers at the end of question time in written form.
  3. Short notice questions: These questions are asked orally in the House after Question Time or as the first item on the agenda when there is no Question Time with shorter notice than prescribed for Questions. starry and not starry. These should generally be of public importance for a matter being considered by the President / President on an urgent basis.
  4. Questions to private membersThis question is addressed to a private Member of Parliament (in accordance with Article 40 of the Rules of Procedure and Business Conduct in Lok Sabha), provided that the subject of the question relates to a bill, resolution or another business of the House for which this member is responsible.

Before asking a question in parliament, the member must give 15 days notice to the president / president in a prescribed manner. Such a period may be reduced at the discretion of the Chairman / Speaker. A notice must include the name of the minister to whom the question will be addressed, the day he wishes to ask and, finally, the questions[5]. The allowed limit on the question is only five per day per member at Lok Sabha[6] and seven a day in Rajya Sabha[7].

As Question Time is suspended for the monsoon session, tracked questions, including supplemental questions that elucidate the same fact, cannot be asked. Subsequently, non-starred questions are allowed with certain limitations in which only certain questions can be asked in a day by a member. Questions to Members and bills are also suspended for this session, which is contrary to the democratic rights of a legislator. However, short notice questions will be permitted with oral responses in urgent cases at the discretion of the Chair.

Highlighting the title of this article, it is important to analyze the importance of Question Time in parliament. Rajya Sabha calls Question Time ‘one of the parliamentary mechanisms, in fact, is mainly intended to exercise a kind of legislative control over the actions of the executive. In addition, Members also find the opportunity through this mechanism to criticize the policies and programs of the Government; ventilate public grievances; expose the government’s shortcomings; and extract promises from ministers. Members also have the opportunity to express their feelings when they are not satisfied with responses by putting in supplements.[8]

Question time being an integral part of the work of parliament in a parliamentary democracy due to the accountability of the government. It is considered an important part of parliamentary work because it sometimes leads to a parliamentary inquiry, a judicial inquiry, the formation of a committee or even the formation of new legislation. The debates and discussion leave the mood of the nation which helps the government understand the political acceptance of such movements and also brings out loopholes in law or government policies and sometimes points raised serious enough to agitate the government. public spirit and are of public importance.

Questions to government serve the purposes of parliamentary democracy, in which asking and discussing a question leads to greater notoriety as the information reaches the ends of the nation. Second, the government gets to know the shortcomings and flaws in the policy and certain clarifications are also made and the reasoning and purpose behind the policy or law is clarified by the government.

In the current situation where India has the highest number of Covid-19 cases a day and the second highest number of cases in the world[9], as we stand on the brink of war on two fronts, one of the economy’s worst contractions of roughly 23% and distasteful FY2019-20 report by the RBI[10], the central government as well as many other state assemblies have opted for the suspension of question time and the abolition of zero hour during parliamentary proceedings, the decision is totally unscientific and unconstitutional. The decision to suspend Question Time in the name of the pandemic has no rational reasoning to justify it. Whereas the abolition of Question Time will cause more damage to the constitutional and democratic principle, as it will lack the accountability of the government. In these circumstances where we have problems in all sectors of the economy, the involvement of the opposition and government control will ensure better implementation of policies. When a situation like this arises, the government must call for better parliamentary discussions and debates that will enable us to overcome the shortcomings and ensure collective responsibility for their duties to the nation.

Views are personal only.

(The author is a BALLB 5th year student of Christ reputed to be university, Bangalore)

[3] Express Web Office, Parliamentary session: Oppn raises the suspension of the question time issue, the government says not to shy away from the debate, Indian Express (Sep 8, 2020, 11:05 am)

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