One of the important functions of the Parliament is to control the Executive. Following mechanisms are available to it for this purpose.
The rules of procedure and conduct of business in Parliament provides that under the presiding officer otherwise direct, every sitting begins with the Question Hour, which is available for asking and answering questions. Asking of questions is an inherent Parliamentary right of all the members, irrespective of their party affiliations. The real object of the member in asking the question is to point out the shortcomings of the administration, to ascertain the thinking of government in formulating its policy and where the policy already exists, in making suitable modifications in that policy.
In case the answer given to a question does not satisfy the member who raised it and if he feels the need for detailed “explanation in the public interest” he may request the presiding officer for a discussion. The presiding officer can allow discussions usually in the last half an hour of the sitting.
The time immediately following the question hour and laying of papers and before any listed business is taken up in the house has come to be popularly known as the Zero Hour. As it starts around 12 noon, this period is euphemistically termed as Zero Hour. Pressing matters during the so-called Zero Hour in Lok Sabha, members give notice before 10 AM to the speaker stating clearly the subject which they consider being important and wish to raise in the house. It is, of course, for the speaker to allow or not allow raising of such matters in the house. That on zero hour is not formally recognized in our Parliamentary procedure.
Calling Attention Motion
Under this procedural device, a member may, with the prior permission of the Speaker, call the attention of a minister to any matter of urgent public importance the minister may make a brief statement or ask for time to make a statement later. Only those matters which are primarily the concern of the union government can be raised through a Calling Attention notice. The Calling Attention procedure is an Indian innovation which combines asking a question with supplementary and making brief comments; the government also gets adequate opportunity to state its case. The Calling Attention matter is not subject to the vote of the house.
Short Duration Discussion
In order to provide opportunity to members to discuss matters of urgent public importance, a convention was established in March 1953 which was incorporated later into the Rules of Procedure and conduct of business in Lok Sabha under Rule 193 as Short Duration Discussion. Under this rule, members can raise discussion for Short Duration without a formal motion or vote thereon.
Discussion under Rule 193
Discussion under Rule 193 does not involve a formal motion before the House. Hence, no voting can take place after discussion on matters under this rule. The member who give notice may make a short statement and some of the members as have previously intimated to the Speaker, maybe permitted to take part in the discussion. The member who raises the discussion has no right of reply. At the end of the discussion, the Minister concerned gives a brief reply.
Motion of No Confidence
The government must always enjoy majority support in the popular House to remain in power. If need be, it has to demonstrate its strength on the floor of the House by moving a Motion of Confidence and winning the confidence of the House. Of the express constitutional provision regarding collective responsibility of the council of ministers for the Lok Sabha, a Motion expressing want of confidence in an individual minister is out of order; under the Rules, only a motion expressing want of confidence in the Council of ministers as a body is admissible. A Motion of No Confidence need not set out any grounds on which it is based.
It is the procedure for adjournment of the business of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, which can be moved with the consent of the Speaker. The Adjournment Motion, if admitted, leads to setting aside of the normal business of the house for discussing the matter mentioned in the motion. To be in order, an Adjournment Motion must raise a matter of sufficient public importance to warrant interruption of normal business of the House and the question of public importance is decided on merit in each individual case. The purpose of an Adjournment Motion is to take the government to task for a recent act of omission or commission having serious consequences. Its adoption is regarded as a sort of censure of the Government.
Besides these devices, Parliament exercises control over the executive through various house committees.
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