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RS Question Hour gets more accountable

February 17, 2010 18:05 IST

Come February 22, the Rajya Sabha will have new rules and procedures for the Question Hour. With the introduction of change of business rules, it will ensured that Union ministers are made more accountable to answer questions in the Upper House.

The sweeping changes have been brought by Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari.

The 73-year-old vice-president, who come from the diplomatic cadre, has solved in  less than 30 months as the Rajya Sabha chairman the malady of Parliamentary questions going unanswered despite being listed on agenda for oral replies that remained unsolved all these decades.

The move, experts say, will ensure no corporate rivalry will be reflected on the floors of the Rajya Sabha and no MP will be allowed to use the floor to play internal politics.

Even if a MP whose question is listed for answer during the question hour abstains, the minister will have to answer and three MPs will be allowed to ask supplementaries, say amendments to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business.

Ansari says the new rule will make both the minister and Members of Parliament  "accountable."

The MPs can't make the usual deal of abstaining from the House, thus saving the minister from inconvenient queries that other MPs may fire at him during Question Hour.

Aware of the loopholes, the Rajya Sabha chairman got the rules amended by the House on December 15. The new rules were notified on Wednesday through a circular to all MPs

The new rules will also put an end to the cash for query scandals where MPs taking money to abstain for the pass-over of their question.

The rules also ensure that a MP cannot have more than one question listed as a starred question for answer in the House to give equal opportunity to other MPs. Besides the concerned MP is allowed to ask two supplementary questions, only three other members will be allowed to put supplementaries. This will remedy the usual practice of the members dragging on one question so long that there is hardly any time left for answers to other questions on the agenda.

Also, each question included on the list for answers will be in the name of only one MP that will be decided through a ballot.

If there are more than one questions by an MP, he will have to make the choice on which question is included for oral answer while other  questions will be shifted to the list of questions for only written  answers.

The specific rule on the absent MPs says: "If on  a question being called it is not put or the member in whose name it  stands is absent, the chairman shall direct that the answer to it be given."

A Correspondent in New Delhi