Next week the Rajya Sabha is likely to arm itself with amended rules that will not allow questions to lapse. Even if the questioner MP is absent, the Minister concerned will respond, and other MPs will be allowed to ask three supplementary questions.

On Thursday, the Rules Committee met to give shape to a change suggested at an earlier meeting of the General Purpose Committee that will make every balloted question a property of the House.

The issue came to limelight on November 30, when question hour collapsed in the Lok Sabha after a long list of MPs, cutting across party lines, were absent, though questions were listed against their names.

Speaker Meira Kumar who had tried hard to maintain order — and was successful — was, however, defeated in the end by their absence. This led to an adjournment.

On December 8, the Rajya Sabha Chairman wondered whether the virus had spread to the Upper House when the first six questions could not be taken up because of the absence of MPs.

However, it was in the last session itself that the Rajya Sabha made a move to amend its rules to ensure questions did not lapse.

It was felt that this would avoid waste of time of the House and waste of money spent on getting together a response. But above all, since question hour enables members to hold Ministers accountable by asking pointed questions about the functioning of their ministries, any dilution of this would have meant that one key function of the legislature — ensuring accountability of the executive —would be weakened.

The Rajya Sabha rules are expected to be amended next week — they will be put before the House for its approval — so that by February, when the next session of Parliament begins, the new rules will be in place.

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