Opposition criticises ‘no question hour’ move for Parliament session

New Delhi: Opposition parties on Wednesday questioned and criticised the decision of doing away with the question hour in the forthcoming monsoon session of Parliament in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor sought justification of no question hour in the monsoon session. “I said four months ago that strongmen leaders would use the excuse of the pandemic to stifle democracy and dissent. The notification for the delayed Parliament session blandly announces there will be no Question Hour. How can this be justified in the name of keeping us safe?” he asked on Twitter.

“Questioning the government is the oxygen of parliamentary democracy. This Govt seeks to reduce Parliament to a notice-board and uses its crushing majority as a rubber-stamp for whatever it wants to pass. The one mechanism to promote accountability has now been done away with,” Tharoor said in another tweet.

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Criticising the move, TMC MP Derek O’Brien accused that the pandemic is an excuse to murder democracy.

“MPs required to submit Qs for Question Hour in Parliament 15 days in advance. Session starts 14 Sept. So Q Hour cancelled? Oppn MPs lose right to Q govt. A first since 1950? Parliament overall working hours remain same so why cancel Q Hour? Pandemic excuse to murder democracy,” O’Brien said in a tweet.

“During the 33rd (1961), 93rd (1975), 98th (1976) 99th (1977) Sessions there was no Question Hour as these sessions were summoned for SPECIAL PURPOSES: Orissa, Proclamation of Emergency, 44th Amdmt, President’s Rule TN/Nagaland. The upcoming Monsoon Session is a REGULAR SESSION,” he said in another tweet.

Lending support to the Opposition cause, RJD MP Manoj Jha said, “It is disappointing. No question hour in such a time when coronavirus has taken so many lives, infection is rising, management regarding it is below poor and also there is a situation at the border, is like a death of the soul of democracy. The Zero Hour is reduced to half an hour. Cannot stand by this decision.”

Congress MP PL Punia hoped that the zero hour will be continued to discuss important issues. “People should take all precautions in view of the COVID-19. They should avoid crowded places. Question hour has been omitted in this parliament session keeping coronavirus pandemic in mind. The hours are limited. There will be sitting arrangements accordingly. I hope Zero Hour will be there as many important issues are raised in it,” he said.

Meanwhile, CPI MP Binoy Viswam has written a letter to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu stating asking that the question hour be reinstated immediately. “Given that the duration of time of Parliamentary sittings is the same as it has always been, suspension of Question hour and Private Members business is unjust & must be reinstated immediately,” he said.

“As Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, you have always been concerned about the rights of members and dignity of the Parliament. I, therefore, urge you to reconsider these decisions and take necessary corrective action that uphold the democratic principles of the Parliament,” Viswam said in the letter.

In the wake of ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no question hour and private members’ business during the monsoon session. Monsoon session of Parliament is scheduled to begin from September 14 and is slated to conclude on October 1.

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