Opposition parties on Wednesday hit out at the government on Wednesday over the suspension of Question Hour in the upcoming Monsoon session of Parliament.
Monsoon session of Parliament is scheduled to begin from September 14 and conclude on October 1.
According to notifications issued by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats, there will be no Question Hour and private members' bills will not be taken up in the Monsoon session, while the Zero Hour will be restricted.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor sought justification of no Question Hour in the monsoon session.
"I said four months ago that strongmen leaders would use the excuse of the pandemic to stifle democracy and 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?" he asked on Twitter.
"Questioning the government is the oxygen of parliamentary democracy. This Govt seeks to reduce Parliament to a notice-board and 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," Tharoor said in another tweet.
Criticising the move, Trinamool Congress MP Derek O'Brien accused that the pandemic is an excuse to murder democracy.
"MPs required to submit questions for Question Hour in Parliament 15 days in advance. Session starts September 14. So Question Hour cancelled? Opposition MPs lose right to question government. A first since 1950? Parliament overall working hours remain same so why cancel Question Hour? Pandemic excuse to murder democracy," tweeted TMC MP Derek O'Brien.
He also pointed out that question hours are significant because issues raised during this time is answered by the minister concerned which is not the case in Zero Hour.
O'Brien also said that during the question hour, questions are asked also from the Treasury Benches and by the move to suspend it, the government was also "denying their own MPs to raise their queries".
"This means that we cannot ask any questions on the state of the economy or the pandemic," he said.
"During the 33rd (1961), 93rd (1975), 98th (1976) 99th (1977) sessions there was no Question Hour as these sessions were summoned for SPECIAL PURPOSES: Orissa, Proclamation of Emergency, 44th Amdmt, President's Rule TN/Nagaland. The upcoming Monsoon Session is a REGULAR SESSION (sic)," the TMC said in another tweet.
Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Manoj Jha said, "It is disappointing. No Question Hour in such a time when coronavirus has taken so many lives, infection is rising, management regarding it is below poor and also there is a situation at the border, is like a death of the soul of democracy. The Zero Hour is reduced to half an hour. Cannot stand by this decision."
Congress MP PL Punia hoped that the Zero Hour will be continued to discuss important issues.
"People should take all precautions in view of the COVID-19. They should avoid crowded places. Question Hour has been omitted in this parliament session keeping coronavirus pandemic in mind. The hours are limited. There will be sitting arrangements accordingly. I hope Zero Hour will be there as many important issues are raised in it," he said.
Meanwhile, CPI MP Binoy Viswam has written a letter to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu stating asking that the Question Hour be reinstated immediately.
"Given that the duration of time of Parliamentary sittings is the same as it has always been, suspension of Question Hour and Private Members business is unjust and must be reinstated immediately," he said.
"As Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, you have always been concerned about the rights of members and dignity of the Parliament. I, therefore, urge you to reconsider these decisions and take necessary corrective action that uphold the democratic principles of the Parliament," Viswam said in the letter.
With inputs from PTI