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Rajya Sabha extends sitting hours, changes timing of Question Hour

Recently the Chairman of Rajya Sabha issued a direction to extend the sitting hours and change the timing of Question Hour in the Upper House. Beginning with the Winter Session, which starts on November 24, Rajya Sabha will meet from 11 am to 6 pm, an hour more than its typical sitting hours. Question Hour will be scheduled from 12 pm to 1 pm, which was earlier held in the first hour of meeting.

Members of Parliament (MPs), in addition to their legislative capacity, play an important role to keep the government accountable. One mechanism for them to hold the government responsible for its policies and actions is Question Hour in Parliament. During Question Hour, MPs raise questions to Ministers on various policy matters and decisions.

Currently, all MPs can submit up to ten questions for every day that Parliament is in Session. Of these, 250 Questions are picked up by a random ballot to be answered each day that Parliament meets. While 230 Questions are answered in writing by Ministries, 20 Questions are scheduled to be answered orally by Ministers on the floor of the House. When a Question is answered orally by a Minister, MPs are also able to ask him/her two Supplementary Questions as a follow up to the response given. Therefore the proper functioning of Question Hour allows Parliament to be effective in its accountability function.

Over the years Question Hour has become a major casualty to disruptions in Parliament. The last decade has seen a decline in the number of questions answered orally on the floor of the House. Rajya Sabha had tried to address this problem in 2011, when Question Hour was shifted to be held from 2 pm to 3 pm, but this was discontinued within a few days.

Percentage of Questions Answered Orally

The 2014 Budget Session saw both Houses of Parliament work for over hundred percent of their scheduled sitting time. However, while Question Hour functioned for 87% of its scheduled time in Lok Sabha, it functioned for only 40% of its scheduled time in Rajya Sabha. In 13 of the 27 sittings of the 2014 Budget Session, Question Hour in Rajya Sabha was adjourned within a few minutes due to disruptions.

It was as a result of these increasing disruptions in the Upper House that the change in timing of the Question Hour and extension of its hours of sitting were proposed. While the Rules of Procedures of Rajya Sabha designate the first hour of sitting for Question Hour, they also allow the Chairman of the House to direct otherwise. It is using this Rule that the Chairman of Rajya Sabha, Mr. Hamid Ansari, issued directions for the Question Hour to be shifted to noon.

It now remains to be seen whether this change in timing of Question Hour in the Upper House will be sufficient to allow for its smoother functioning.

Sources:

M.N. Kaul and S.L. Shakdher, Practice and Procedure of Parliament, Lok Sabha Secretariat, 6th Edition, 2009

Rajya Sabha Rules of Procedure, Rajya Sabha Secretariat, 2010

 

  1. dhanjeev shrivastava
    November 14th, 2014 at 18:59 | #1

    Unless the people’s representative be aware of what they are accountable for and for whome they need to perform no reform either procedural or rules of house going to mend their way…..sooner their calls from within come better would be the chance for our democracy getting matured.
    But anyhw the said move might prove stepping stone.
    Good article

  2. abhishek gupta
    November 15th, 2014 at 14:12 | #2

    This type of initiative should be welcomed,,

  3. Sachin Shatri
    November 15th, 2014 at 17:41 | #3

    Are the cabinet ministers answerable to Rajya Sabha also?

  4. Vishwas
    December 9th, 2014 at 08:34 | #4

    @Sachin Shatri
    They are not responsible as in Lok Sabha when No Confidence motion is considered. Still Rajya Sabha holds ministers accountable by other motions, resolutions and questions. Their questions and concerns gains equal importance as of Lok Sabha.

  5. Prateek
    December 20th, 2014 at 16:23 | #5

    Rajya Sabha members are not accountable to the the people, but to their political parties. People who don’t have capability to win the peoples verdict,enter the parliament through back door and enjoy member of parliament perks. Since independence Rajya Sabha has no major contribution in nation building except distruptions. They just pull the country down by wasting the taxpayer’s money.

  6. rahul
    March 20th, 2015 at 23:31 | #6

    @Sachin Shatri

    Nope. They are only responsible to Lok Sabha.

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