Context: The decision to go without “Question Hour” during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, beginning September 14, has evoked serious concerns about the democratic functioning of the institution.
- Cancelling Question Hour erodes constitutional mandate of parliamentary oversight over executive action as envisaged under Article 75 (3) of the Indian Constitution.
- Question Hour is not only an opportunity for the members to raise questions, but it is a parliamentary device primarily meant for exercising legislative control over executive actions.
The right to question the executive has been exercised by members of the House from the colonial period.
- The first Legislative Council in British India under the Charter Act, 1853, showed some degree of independence by giving members the power to ask questions to the executive.
- Later, the Indian Council Act of 1861 allowed members to elicit information by means of questions.
- However, it was the Indian Council Act, 1892, which formulated the rules for asking questions including short notice questions.
- The Indian Council Act, 1909, which incorporated provisions for asking supplementary questions by members.
- The Montague-Chelmsford reforms brought forth a significant change in 1919 by incorporating a rule that the first hour of every meeting was earmarked for questions. Parliament has continued this tradition.
- In 1921, there was another change. The question on which a member desired to have an oral answer, was distinguished by him with an asterisk, a star. This marked the beginning of starred questions.