Devices of Parliamentary Proceedings

Question Hour

  • Generally, the first hour of a sitting in Lok Sabha is devoted to Questions and that hour is called the Question Hour. Asking of questions is an inherent and unfettered parliamentary right of members.
  • It has a special significance in the proceedings of Parliament. It is during the Question Hour that the members can ask questions on every aspect of administration and Government activity. Government policies in national as well as international spheres come into sharp focus as the members try to elicit pertinent information during the Question Hour.

Types of Questions Asked During Question Hour

Questions are of four types: starred, unstarred, short notice questions, and questions addressed to private members.

  • A Starred Question is one to which a member desires an oral answer in the House and which is distinguished by an asterisk mark. When a question is answered orally, supplementary questions can be asked thereon. Only 20 questions can be listed for oral answer on a day.
  • An Unstarred Question is one which is not called for oral answer in the House and on which no supplementary questions can consequently be asked. To such a question, a written answer is given by the Minister to whom it is addressed.
  • A Short Notice Question is one which relates to a matter of urgent public importance and can be asked with shorter notice than the period of notice prescribed for an ordinary question. Like a starred question, it is answered orally and is often followed by supplementary questions.
  • The Question to a Private Member is addressed to the Member himself/herself and it is asked when the subject matter of the question pertains to any Bill, Resolution or any matter relating to the Business of the House for which that particular member is responsible. For such questions, the same procedure is followed as in the case of questions addressed to a Minister with such variations as the Speaker may consider necessary or convenient.

Notices of Questions

  • A member gives notice in writing addressed to the Secretary-General of Lok Sabha intimating his intention to ask a question.
  • Besides the text of the question, the notice states clearly the official designation of the Minister to whom the question is addressed and also the date on which the question is desired to be placed on the list of questions for answer and also the order of preference, if any, for its being placed on the list of questions when a member tables more than one notice of questions for the same day.
  • The normal period of notice of a question is not more than 21 and not less than 10 clear days.
  • A short notice question can be asked with a notice shorter than 10 days, but the member has to state briefly the reasons for asking the question at short notice.

Half-an-Hour Discussion

  • Where answer to a question whether Starred or Unstarred needs elucidation on a matter of fact, any member can table a notice for raising Half-an-Hour Discussion.
  • If the notice is admitted, such a discussion may be allowed by the Speaker.

Zero Hour

  • Zero Hour starts immediately after the end of Question Hour and lasts until the agenda for the day, i.e., regular business of the house is taken up.
  • In other words, the time gap between the Question Hour and the agenda of the day is called Zero Hour.
  • Zero Hour is not mentioned in rules of procedure. It is used to discuss important national issues without prior notice.

Parliamentary Procedure

  • Parliamentary procedure is undertaken through motions, resolutions, and discussions.

Motions

  • Motion as a parliamentary procedure is a proposal which the member of the House of Parliament proposes for the opinion or decision of the house. The person, who makes such a proposal is called the mover of the motion, usually starts with the phrase “I move”. Once the mover gets the permission of the chair to move the motion, the motion must be seconded by other members of the house.

Types of motions that can be moved in the parliament: There are about six types of motions which can be moved in both the houses of the Parliament but certain motions can be moved only in the Lok Sabha.

  1. Privilege motion: When a member, usually of the opposition party, feels that a minister of the government has misled the house, he can move a privilege motion against the minister for providing wrong information to the House of the Parliament. The motion can even be moved against an outsider for breach of privileges of the Parliament.
  2. Censure motion: The censure motion is usually moved by the opposition party against the ruling party or any of its ministers for failure to act in a particular matter. The motion is moved to seek the disapproval of certain policy of the government in power. The motion must clearly specify the charges against the government. In case the censure motion is passed, the government has to seek the confidence vote of the house. The Censure motion can be moved only in the Lok Sabha and not in the Rajya Sabha.
  3. No-Confidence motion: This motion is also allowed to be moved only in the Lok Sabha. Any opposition party can introduce the no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha. No-confidence motion is against the entire Council of Ministers and not against any particular minister. Unlike the censure motion, the mover of the motion does not require to specify the charges against the Council of Ministers.
  • No conditions of admissibility have been laid down for acceptance of no-confidence motion.
  • Thus, Speaker has the power to decide whether a motion is in order or not.
  • Once the speaker decides that motion is in order, after the Question Hour, the member takes the leave of the Speaker by reading out the motion and asks not less than 50 members to stand on their place in support of leave.
  • Depending on the numbers, the Speaker grants the leave.
  • Once a no-confidence motion is allowed by the Chair, the motion takes precedence over all the pending business of the house and is taken up first.
  • No-confidence motion is to be introduced within 10 days of the leave being granted. The mover may specify the charges. In that case, the PM or any other Minister usually reply to the charges.
  • The mover has right to reply.
  • After debate, speaker puts question to the house and ascertains the decision of the house by voice vote or by division of members. The Council of Ministers is bound to resign once the No-confidence Motion is passed by simple majority of the house.

Difference between Censure Motion and No-Confidence Motion

1.Censure motion

It should state the reasons for its adoption in Lok Sabha.

1.No-Confidence motion

It need not state the reasons for its adoption in Lok Sabha.

2.It can be moved against an individual minister, group of ministers, or the entire Council of Ministers.2.It can be moved only against the entire Council of Ministers.
  3.It is adopted to disapprove particular Government policy or action.3.It is moved to disapprove the overall functioning of Council of Ministers.
4.If passed, the Council of Ministers need not necessarily resign from office.4.If passed in the Lok Sabha, the Council of Ministers must resign from office.
  1. Call attention motion: After permission of the chair, a member of the parliament can move the call attention motion to call the attention of a minister towards any matter of urgent public importance. Such a motion in the Rajya Sabha is called Motion for Papers.
  2. Adjournment motion: It is a motion to adjourn the business of the house to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance. Thus, this motion involves interruption of the normal business of the house. The matter of definite urgent importance is within the responsibility of Council of Ministers.

As this motion involves some censure against the Government, this motion cannot be adopted in Rajya Sabha. This motion is not mentioned under Parliament rules of business. It requires support of minimum 50 members, to be adopted.

  1. Cut motion: This motion is in the form of veto power which the members of the Lok Sabha enjoy when the demands of funds are discussed in the Lok Sabha. This motion is a part of budgetary process that seeks to reduce the amount of grants. This motion also serves as an effective tool in the hands of the opposition to test the strength of the ruling government. It has the same effect as the no-confidence motion. If the cut motion is adopted by the house against the government, the Council of Ministers is required to resign. Cut-motions can be moved only in the Lok Sabha.

Types of cut motions

  • Policy cut motion: The objective of this cut motion is to disapprove the policy underlying the
    demand for funds. By convention if a policy cut motion is adopted, the funds approved are reduced to Rs. 1. If this motion is adopted in the Lok Sabha, then it amounts to defeat of Government on a policy issue and the Government is required to prove its majority.
  • Economy cut motion: The objective of this motion is to bring about economy in the expenditure of the Government of India. It does not question the policy underlying the demand. If it is adopted in Lok Sabha, then the allocated funds are reduced by a certain amount. For example, initial demand by a ministry is Rs. 1000 crores but only Rs. 900 crores are allocated by Lok Sabha.

(iii) Token cut motion: This cut motion aims that the amount of the demand be reduced by Rs. 100 in order to ventilate a specific grievance, which is within the responsibility of the Government of India. Actually, token cut is symbolic in nature and is humiliating for the Government. To be precise, all the cut motions are humiliating for the ruling party.

Resolutions

A written motion through which the house expresses its majority opinion is called a resolution. Further, all motions are not necessarily put to vote, whereas all resolutions are put to vote.

Resolutions are classified into three categories:

  1. Private members’ resolution: It is moved by a private member (other than a minister).
  2. Government resolution: It is moved by a minister.
  3. Statutory resolution: It can be moved either by a private member or a minister under provisions of Constitution or some other law.

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