The opposition has lashed out at the ruling government, accusing it of "reducing the Parliament to a notice board" after a notification by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat mentioned that there will be no Question Hour during the Monsoon Session.
As per the notification, "In the wake of ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no Question Hour and Private Members' business during the Monsoon Session." However, Zero Hour and other proceedings will be conducted as per schedule.
The Monsoon Session of Parliament will begin on September 14 and will continue till October 1 with about 18 sittings, including weekends with each house in seating for a duration of four hours.
Soon after the notice surfaced, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor accused the government of seeking to "reduce Parliament to a notice-board and using its majority as a rubber stamp."
1/2 I said four months ago that strongmen leaders would use the excuse of the pandemic to stifle democracy&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?— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) September 2, 2020
2/2 Questioning the government is the oxygen of parliamentary democracy. This Govt seeks to reduce Parliament to a notice-board & 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.— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) September 2, 2020
TMC MP Derek O'Brien said that the pandemic was being used as 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— Derek O'Brien | ডেরেক ও'ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) September 2, 2020
Last week, Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury wrote to Speaker Om Birla, requesting him not to curb the power of the members to ask questions and raise issues amid the Monsoon Session.
In a letter to the speaker, Chowdhury wrote: "Curtailing the Question Hour and the Zero Hour would not be in the interest of elected representatives, especially in the current times of COVID-19."