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Question Hour

Introduction


Question hour is the liveliest hour in Parliament. Members of Parliament question ministers during this hour and hold them accountable regarding the functioning of their respective ministries. MPs' questions are intended to elicit information and prompt appropriate action by ministries.

It is regulated according to parliamentary rules. It is mentioned in the rules and procedures of the house.


Three distinct types of questions are asked

  • Starred question (distinguished by an asterisk)- this requires an oral answer and hence supplementary questions can follow.


  • Unstarred question—this requires a written response and thus cannot be followed by supplementary questions.


  • A short notice question is asked with less than ten days' notice. It is addressed verbally.


Features

  • Parliament has detailed rules governing all aspects of Question Hour. And the two houses' presiding officers have final authority over the conduct of Question Hour. For instance, Question Hour is typically the first hour of a parliamentary sitting. In 2014, Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari moved the House's Question Hour from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. This was done to avoid a disruption.


  • Parliamentary rules specify the types of questions that can be asked by MPs. Questions must be no more than 150 words long. They must be precise and not too broad. The question should also be related to one of the Government of India's areas of responsibility. Questions should not seek information about matters that are confidential or are being adjudicated in court. The presiding officers of the two Houses are ultimately responsible for determining whether a question raised by an MP will be admitted for answer by the government.


  • MPs frequently press ministers for information to hold them accountable. However, the rules provide them with a mechanism for posing a question to their colleagues.


  • Question Hour in both Houses is held on all days of the session. But there are two days when an exception is made. One when the President addresses MPs from both Houses. Two, the day budget is presented.


Significance


Over the last 70 years, Members of Parliament have successfully used this parliamentary tool to shine a light on government actions. Their inquiries uncovered financial irregularities and brought data and information about the functioning of the government into the public domain keeping executive under check. Since 1991, when Question Hour began broadcasting, it has grown to be one of the most visible aspects of parliamentary functioning. Prior to the Declaration of Independence, the first question to the government was posed in 1893.



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