The Question Hour and Calling Attention Motions, that were scrapped during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, will be restored during that Budget Session, which will be held January 29 to February 15.
The Budget session will be conducted with all Covid-19 protocols in place. The second part of the Budget Session will be held between March 8 and April 8. In total, the Parliament will be in session for 33 days.
The government was severely criticised by the Opposition for scrapping question hour during the Monsoon Session. The government had said it was being done to avoid crowding inside the houses of the Parliament. Apart from a minister answering the question, several officers have to be present in Parliament during question hour. The government had said it wanted to keep the number of people coming into the Parliament in check, since during the Monsoon Session, Covid-19 cases were at its peak in Delhi.
While only written questions had been answered by the government during that period, Zero Hour was also reduced to just half an hour. That too is expected to be restored to its normal duration. Bulletin’s issued by the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha have encouraged MPs to send in their questions in the required format and the stipulated time.
The upcoming Budget Session will also see the return of short duration discussions, Calling Attention Motion discussion and taking up of Private Members’ Business. The timing for short duration discussions and Calling Attention Motion would be at the discretion of the chair of the house. Private Members Bills would be taken up on Fridays.
Covid-19 protocols mandated by the Union Health Ministry — that include compulsory wearing of masks, maintaining social distance, paperless transactions, Covid-19 tests for MPs, their families, Secretariat officials and staff, and the media — are likely to be continued in the Budget Session.
Like in the Monsoon Session, in the Budget Session both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha will work in shifts. Other than the day of the Presidential address and Budget Day, Rajya Sabha will function between 9 am and 2 pm, and Lok Sabha between 4 pm to 9 pm only on weekdays.
During the Monsoon Session of Parliament, nearly 40 MPs had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, while over 400 staff of both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were also infected. The session was cut short by eight days and concluded on September 24.
The year 2020 saw only a total of 33 days of Parliament in session, out of which 23 days were during the Budget Session and 10 days during the Monsoon Session. Last year too, the Budget Session had to be adjourned before it’s scheduled date because of the pandemic. Subsequently a nationwide lockdown was called by the government in March.
Despite requests from the Opposition in November and December 2020 to conduct the Winter Session or call for a special session for scrapping of the farm laws, the government cited the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in Delhi and decided to scrap the Winter Session and merge it with the Budget Session.