Govt Simplifies Q&A Procedures to Help First-Time MPs

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The Economic Times, July 02, 2014

With a record number of 315 first-time Members of Parliament in the Lok Sabha, including 161 from the ruling BJP, the LS secretariat has sent out a letter to all ministries listing guidelines on how to handle Parliament questions in the upcoming budget session.

In its letter dated June 27, the secretariat has asked all ministries to avoid referring to their websites while furnishing answers to questions posed by the MPs, not to club replies to multiple questions in a consolidated answer and not disallow a question on the sole plea that it is not in public interest. This may help the record number of firsttime MPs in Parliament elicit answers to their questions in their maiden session in the House.

“The ministries/department concerned of the Government of India are requested to follow the guidelines and procedures stipulated (in the annexure) meticulously,” the letter says. The letter says that it has been noticed earlier that some of the ministries were quoting or referring to their website in replies to their questions in Parliament. “In such an eventuality, Members of Parliament find it difficult to frame supplementaries during Question Hour in absence of instant access to such information.

Further, all documents/papers laid on the table of the House need to be authenticated. Since information/data posted through website is dynamic and not static, the authentication of such papers/documents which undergo changes subsequently may not be in order. The ministries/departments are, therefore, advised to avoid quoting/referring their website and provide the requisite replies in the replies itself,” the secretariat has written to all ministries and departments.

The secretariat has also advised ministries not to reject questions on the sole plea of them not being in national interest. “A question is not usually disallowed on the sole plea of the ministry/department that it is not in the public interest to give information on the floor of the house. It is always open to the minister to state in reply to a question that he/she is not prepared to disclose the information in public interest and it is for the House to accept it.

The Speaker, may, only in rare case, disallow a question in larger national interest, if it is brought to the Speaker’s notice by the minister concerned that the disclosure of information will be prejudicial to the safety of the state, giving also briefly the background of the matter,” the letter says.

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