The Lok Sabha Secretariat on Wednesday officially released the schedule for the monsoon Parliament session that starts on September 14, with Question Hour being dropped.
Opposition leaders, including Congress leader in the House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, had written to Speaker Om Birla not to curtail Question Hour as it amounted to “encroaching upon a member’s right” and denied them an opportunity to question the government.
In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, private members business, usually fixed for every Friday, has also been skipped.
Asked about protests from the Opposition on Question Hour cancellation, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said Parliament was being held in the midst of an extraordinary situation. He said his colleague, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, was in touch with all parties, holding talks and would update at an appropriate time.
In a statement late in the evening, Mr. Joshi said the Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu were discussing the possibility of allowing unstarred questions, answers to which are given in writing and laid on the floor of the House. Mr. Joshi also said that except Trinamool Congress leader Derek O Brien, other leaders didn’t strongly object to cancelling the Question Hour.
Mr. Joshi said they had requested the presiding officers of both Houses to have Zero Hour — when an MP can raise any important issue — for at least 30 minutes.
The session will have staggered timings to accommodate members of one House in both chambers and follow strict physical distancing norms. On the first day, the Lok Sabha will have proceedings from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. From September 15 to October 1, it will sit from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Similarly, on September 14, the Rajya Sabha will sit from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. From the second day, it will transact business between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.
The two-hour break between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. would be used to disinfect both the chambers, said an official.
Earlier, as reported by The Hindu , two four-hour slots (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.-8 p.m.) were under discussion for staggered timings for the two Houses to meet instead of simultaneous proceedings.
The session will have 18 sittings, which includes two working Saturdays and Sundays each, and will end on October 1.
Deputy Leader of the Lok Sabha and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had reached out to senior Opposition leaders, including Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mr. Chowdhury and Trinamool’s Derek O’Brien before finalising the plans.