The first hour of every parliamentary sitting is slotted for this. During this time, the members ask questions and the ministers usually give answers. The questions are of three kinds, namely, starred, unstarred and short notice.
A starred question (distinguished by an asterisk) requires an oral answer and hence supplementary questions can follow.
An unstarred question, on the other hand, requires a written answer and hence, supplementary questions cannot follow.
A short notice question is one that is asked by giving a notice of less than ten days. It is answered orally.
In addition to the ministers, the questions can also be asked to the private members. Thus, a question may be addressed to a private member if the subject matter of the question relates to some Bill, resolution or other matter connected with the business of the House for which that member is responsible. The procedure in regard to such question is the same as that followed in the case of questions addressed to a minister.
The list of starred, unstarred, short notice questions and questions to private members are printed in green, white, light pink and yellow colour, respectively, to distinguish them from one another.
Unlike the question hour, the zero hour is not mentioned in the Rules of Procedure. Thus it is an informal device available to the members of the Parliament to raise matters without any prior notice. The zero hour starts immediately after the question hour and lasts until the agenda for the day (ie, regular business of the House) is taken up. In other words, the time gap between the question hour and the agenda is known as zero hour. It is an Indian innovation in the field of parliamentary procedures and has been in
existence since 1962.
No discussion on a matter of general public importance can take place except on a motion made with the consent of the presiding officer. The House expresses its decisions or opinions on various issues through the adoption or rejection of motions moved by either ministers or private members.
The motions moved by the members to raise discussions on various matters fall into three principal categories:14
1. Substantive Motion: It is a self-contained independent proposal dealing with a very important matter like impeachment of the President or removal of Chief Election Commissioner.
2. Substitute Motion: It is a motion that is moved in substitution of an original motion and proposes an alternative to it. If adopted by the House, it supersedes the original motion.
3. Subsidiary Motion: It is a motion that, by itself, has no meaning and cannot state the decision of the House without reference to the original motion or proceedings of the House. It is divided into three subcategories:
(a) Ancillary Motion: It is used as the regular way of proceeding with various kinds of business.
(b) Superseding Motion: It is moved in the course of debate on another issue and seeks to supersede that issue.
(c) Amendment: It seeks to modify or substitute only a part of the original motion.
Closure Motion It is a motion moved by a member to cut short the debate on a matter before the House. If the motion is approved by the House, debate is stopped forthwith and the matter is put to vote. There are four kinds of closure motions15:
(a) Simple Closure: It is one when a member moves that the ‘matter having been sufficiently discussed be now put to vote’.
(b) Closure by Compartments: In this case, the clauses of a bill or a lengthy resolution are grouped into parts before the commencement of the debate.The debate covers the part as a whole and the entire part is put to vote.
(c) Kangaroo Closure: Under this type, only important clauses are taken up for debate and voting and the intervening clauses are skipped over and taken as passed.
(d) Guillotine Closure: It is one when the undiscussed clauses of a bill or a resolut-ion are also put to vote along with the discussed ones due to want of time (as the time allotted for the discussion is over).
Privilege Motion It is concerned with the breach of parliamentary privileges by a minister. It is moved by a member when he feels that a minister has committed a breach of privilege of the House or one or more of its members by withholding facts of a case or by giving wrong or distorted facts. Its purpose is to censure the concerned minister.
Calling Attention Motion It is introduced in the Parliament by a member to call the attention of a minister to a matter of urgent public importance, and to seek an authoritative statement from him on that matter. Like the zero hour, it is also an Indian innovation in the parliamentary procedure and has been in existence since 1954. However, unlike the zero hour, it is mentioned in the Rules of Procedure.
Adjournment Motion It is introduced in the Parliament to draw attention of the House to a definite matter of urgent public importance, and needs the support of 50 members to be admitted. As it interrupts the normal business of the House, it is regarded as an extraordinary device. It involves an element of censure against the government and hence Rajya Sabha is not permitted to make use of this device. The discussion on an adjournment motion should last for not less than two hours and thirty minutes.
The right to move a motion for an adjournment of the business of the House is subject to the following restrictions:
1. It should raise a matter which is definite, factual, urgent and of public importance;
2. It should not cover more than one matter;
3. It should be restricted to a specific matter of recent occurrence and should not be framed in general terms;
4. It should not raise a question of privilege;
5. It should not revive discussion on a matter that has been discussed in the same session;
6. It should not deal with any matter that is under adjudication by court; and
7. It should not raise any question that can be raised on a distinct motion.
1. It should state the reasons for its adoption in the Lok Sabha.
2. It can be moved against an individual
minister or a group of ministers or the
entire council of ministers.
3. It is moved for censuring the council
of ministers for specific policies and
4. If it is passed in the Lok Sabha, the council of ministers need not resign from the office.
1. It need not state the reasons
for its adoption in the Lok Sabha.
2. It can be moved against the
entire council of ministers
3. It is moved for ascertaining
the confidence of Lok Sabha
in the council of ministers.
4. If it is passed in the Lok Sabha, the council of ministers must resign from office.
No-Confidence Motion Article 75 of the Constitution says that the council of ministers shall be collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha. It means that the ministry stays in office so long as it enjoys confidence of the majority of the members of the Lok Sabha. In other words, the Lok Sabha can remove the ministry from office by passing a no-confidence motion. The motion needs the support of 50 members to be admitted.
Motion of Thanks The first session after each general election and the first session of every fiscal year is addressed by the president. In this address, the president outlines the policies and programmes of the government in the preceding year and ensuing year. This address of the president, which corresponds to the ‘speech from the Throne in Britain’, is discussed in both the Houses of Parliament on a motion called the ‘Motion of Thanks’. At the end of the discussion, the motion is put to vote. This motion must be passed in the House. Otherwise, it amounts to the defeat of the government. This inaugural speech of the president is an occasion available to the members of Parliament to raise discussions and debates to examine and criticise the government and administration for its lapses and failures.
No-Day-Yet-Named Motion It is a motion that has been admitted by the Speaker but no date has been fixed for its discussion. The Speaker, after considering the state of business in the House and in consultation with the leader of the House or on the recommendation of the Business Advisory Committee, allots a day or days or part of a day for the discussion of such a motion.
Point of Order
A member can raise a point of order when the proceedings of the House do not follow the normal rules of procedure. A point of order should relate to the interpretation or enforcement of the Rules of the House or such articles of the Constitution that regulate the business of the House and should raise a question that is within the cognizance of the Speaker. It is usually raised by an opposition member in order to control the government. It is an extraordinary device as it suspends the proceedings before the House. No debate is allowed on a point of order.
It is meant for discussing a matter of sufficient public importance, which has been subjected to a lot of debate and the answer to which needs elucidation on a matter of fact. The Speaker can allot three days in a week for such discussions. There is no formal motion or voting before the House.
Short Duration Discussion
It is also known as two-hour discussion as the time allotted for such a discussion should not exceed two hours. The members of the Parliament can raise such discussions on a matter of urgent public importance. The Speaker can allot two days in a week for such discussions. There is neither a formal motion before the house nor voting. This device has been in existence since 1953.
A matter which is not a point of order or which cannot be raised during question hour, half-an hour discussion, short duration discussion or under adjournment motion, calling attention notice or under any rule of the House can be raised under the special mention in the Rajya Sabha. Its equivalent procedural device in the Lok Sabha is known as ‘Notice (Mention) Under Rule 377’.
The members can move resolutions to draw the attention of the House or the government to matters of general public interest. The discussion on a resolution is strictly relevant to and within the scope of the resolution. A member who has moved a resolution or amendment to a resolution cannot withdraw the same except by leave of the House.
Resolutions are classified into three categories:
“All resolutions come in the category of substantive motions, that is to say, every resolution is a particular type of motion. All motions need not necessarily be substantive. Further, all motions are not necessarily put to vote of the House, whereas all the resolutions are required to be voted upon.”