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What is and how to handle – ‘Parliament Questions’

The foundation of democracy was laid in India by the introduction of the principle of representation by the Indian Councils Act, 1892. Through this Act, on matters of public interest, members of the Councils were allowed to raise questions to the government after giving six day’s notice.

When Indian parliament is in session the first hour of the day is known as ‘Question Hour’. It starts at 11:00 a.m. and concludes at 12:00 noon on (Monday to Friday) five days a week. During Question Hour Members of Parliament may raise questions about any aspect of administrative and governmental activity generally after giving a notice period of 15 days before the question is asked. Asking questions is an inherent and unrestricted democratic right of every Member of Parliament. It is a parliamentary method through which the legislative supremacy over executive actions is exercised. Though ministers are collectively and severally answerable to the legislature the concerned Minister is obliged to answer to the Parliament. Depending upon the type of question raised the answer may be oral or in writing.

Questions are categorized in following four types: -

(1) When a member desires that answers to the question asked is to be given orally on the floor of the House during the Question Hour then it is categorized as Starred Questions. These questions are distinguished in the printed lists by ‘asterisks’ (*).

(2) When a member does not call for oral answers to the question during the Question Hour then it is categorized as Unstarred Questions. Here no supplementary question can be asked.

(3) When a subject matter to a question is considered to be of urgent public importance, then such questions can be asked orally in the House at a notice shorter than that prescribed for Starred Questions and Unstarred Questions i.e. less than 15 days. This category of questions is known as Short Notice Questions.

(4) With the permission of the Chair immediately after the answer to a Starred Questions or Short Notice Questions some questions may be asked and these are known as Supplementary Questions.

A Member of Parliament gives notice in writing to ask questions along with a text of the question stating official designation of the Minister to whom the question is addressed. It is the prerogative and exclusive right of the Member of Parliament to designate the Minister for answering of question. To guide Members of Parliament, a booklet named “Demarcation of Responsibilities in Government of India”, containing the subjects for which various Ministries/ Departments are responsible for answering questions has been hosted on Homepage of Lok Sabha portal.

These questions are scrutinized and if found suitable they are admitted segregated category wise like Starred Questions/Unstarred Questions and if required their inter se priority for the day is fixed through ballot. These category wise questions are numbered separately and separate dairies are maintained for each category.

If the questions suffer from infirmity namely the subject matter of the question relate to an area where the Government of India is not primarily responsible or matter being pending in a court of law or is under consideration of a Parliamentary Committee or the question making discourteous references to a friendly foreign country or the disclosure of information will be prejudicial to the safety of the State or questions which raise policy matters too large to be dealt in Question Hour are generally not admitted.

Admitted questions are sent to Ministries/Departments for response. In preparing answer to the Parliament Questions following points should be borne in mind:-

(i) That the answers to the questions should be part-wise, neat and clean, legible and whenever there is any reference to any statement, etc. in the text of a reply, the same should be enclosed for ready reference.

(ii) Reference to website of the concerned Ministries/Departments as far as possible should be avoided and if the information is bulky the same may be summarized for the benefit of the Members.

(iii) The hard copies of reply should be in A4 size (210mm X 297mm) paper with a margin on the left of one and a half inch. The English version of the reply should be on one side with the corresponding Hindi version on the other side and printed in font Arial with size 12 and in double space.

(iv) One should refrain from furnishing assurances in reply to a Starred Question. If however it is felt that reply to a Starred Question shall result in assurance only this fact may be brought to the notice of the Joint Secretary/ Director-in-charge immediately on receipt of advance notice of question.

For detailed Guidelines and Procedure to be followed by Ministries/Departments in connection with Parliament Questions one may read the Lok Sabha Secretariat (Question Branch), Parliament House Annexe, New Delhi’s OM issued vide No. 19/10/XVI/IV/2015-Q dated 13/02/2015.

While giving answers Ministers have to be very careful about the authenticity of information given through the answers as otherwise it might lead to raising question of parliamentary privilege. Minister is required to make a statement in the House correcting the reply inadvertently given by him/her earlier.

Further the time gap between the end of Question Hour and the beginning of the regular business is known as ‘Zero Hour’ which starts at 12 noon where Members of Parliament after giving notice before the start of the session may raise matters of serious importance.

Again on a recent matter of sufficient public importance Member of Parliament may raise a half-an-hour discussion in the last half-an-hour i.e. 5:30 pm to 6:00 pm of a sitting

ITKP on March 06 2015 19:01:21

Nice information sir. Thanks a lot for educating us on various important issues.

Bandana Diwedi on March 14 2015 11:42:19

Thanks Sir.Always wondered why questions were starred /unstarred and thought Imp ones were starred.Thanks again fir adding to my knowledge and clearing the webs

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