The Winter Session of the Parliament started on a stormy note with a lot of debates and protests going on in both the Houses with regards to the controversial bills being passed. As we all know that the basic essence of the Indian Parliament is to make laws for its citizens and all legislative proposals have to be introduced in the form of bills before the Parliament. Therefore a bill is nothing but a statute in draft and it cannot become a law unless it has received the approval of both the Houses of Parliament and assent of the President of India.
A bill is divided into clauses and these become sections when the Bill becomes an Act. There are three stages through which a bill has to be passed- Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha & then the President’s Assent.
Whenever there is a session in the Parliament (be it Budget, Monsoon or Winter), various terms are used which are very important for everyone to know. In this article, we have talked about Question hour, Zero Hour, Adjournment etc.
This is also known as the Liveliest Hour in the Parliament. But why? In this one hour members of the Parliament ask questions to the ministers and hold them accountable for the functioning of their ministries. It acts as a tool to hold the government responsible to Parliament. It is the regular hour of regular business activity and generally starts at 11am and goes on till 12pm.
What are the types of questions asked in the Question Hour?
Starred Questions- This type of a question requires an oral answer hence supplementary questions can follow.
Unstarred Questions- This question requires a written answer & therefore supplementary questions cannot follow
Short Notice Questions- This type of questions are done by giving a 10 days notice and are answered orally.
Is there any Limitation to the Number of Questions asked?
In Lok Sabha until late 1960s there was no limit on unstarred questions that could be asked in a day.
Now there is a limit on the number of starred and unstarred questions an MP can ask in a day.
There’s a ballot in which questions asked by MPs are put and from that ballot, 20 starred questions are picked for answering during Question hour and 230 unstarred questions are picked for written answers.
Did you Know? During the 33rd (1961), 93rd (1975), 98th (1976) 99th (1977) Sessions there was no Question Hour as these sessions were summoned for Special Purpose like Orissa, Proclamation of Emergency, 44th Amendment, President's Rule TN/Nagaland.
Till now we have discussed that the Parliament begins its session with asking questions during the Question Hour. Apart from it the Parliament gives enough time for members to discuss the issues and this is where the concept of Zero Hour comes into picture. Although the concept of Zero Hour is not given in our parliamentary procedure, it has become a very important norm in both the houses of Parliament.
In a Zero Hour, MPs can raise matters without any prior notice. Basically the time gap between the Question hour & Agenda is known as Zero Hour.
Why is it called a Zero Hour?
While dictionary defines ‘Zero Hour’ as the “the critical moment” or “the moment of decision”, in parliamentary terms, it is referred to as the time gap between the end of Question Hour and the beginning of the regular business. As it was mentioned before that the Zero Hour doesn’t find a mention in the Rules of Procedure and hence it’s considered an informal procedure for the members of Parliament to raise matters of serious importance. The other rationale behind naming it so can be traced to the fact that it starts at 12 noon.
Significance of Zero Hour in Present Scenario
With time, the concept of Zero Hour has come to be known as an important tool to air grievances and reaffirm Parliament's role as a platform for debate
It has gained popularity because of the freedom it gives to any member of the Parliament irrespective of party affiliations to ask questions & demand immediate answers.
Other Important Parliamentary Terms
What is a Quorum?
Quorum means the minimum number of the members required to be present for conducting a meeting of the house. Our Indian Constitution has fixed 1/10th strength as quorum for both the Houses- Lok Sabha & Rajya Sabha.
Therefore to conduct a sitting of Lok Sabha, there should be at least 55 members present while for a Rajya Sabha sitting, there should be at least 25 members present.
What is Adjournment?
“Lok Sabha adjourned till 2 pm amid uproar by Opposition, demanding discussion over farm laws repeal bill.”
“Lok Sabha adjourned till 12 noon following ruckus by the Opposition.”
We have often seen these headlines whenever there’s any session of the Indian Parliament. But what does adjournment really mean?
When a Speaker announces Adjournment it basically terminates the sitting of the House which will meet again at the time appointed for the next sitting. The postponement can be for hours, days or weeks.
If it is terminated without any definite time or date fixed for the next meeting, it is called Adjournment sine die.
As we know that the Parliament of India is the Supreme Legislative body of India, the Question Hour is strictly regulated in the Parliament while Zero Hour is an Indian Parliamentary Innovation. In the last Monsoon Session of the Parliament there was no Question Hour due to the Covid-19 Pandemic and Zero Hour also was restricted. Both Zero Hour and Question Hour are quite vital for the smooth functioning of the Indian Parliament.