Zero Hour in Parliament: Meaning, Duration, What is Zero Hour?

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Zero Hour in Parliament was introduced by the parliamentary committee, however, it is not mentioned anywhere in the parliamentary rule book. This procedure allows the members of parliament to raise questions of public interest in the parliament, which they can proceed with without giving prior information. The Zero Hour in Parliament is started immediately after the Question hour and lasts until the day’s agenda is finished. So technically, it can be said that the period between the Question hour and the agenda is known as Zero Hour.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Union Government has decided to suspend Question Hour and cut down Zero Hour for the Monsoon session. Question Hour was suspended earlier during the national emergencies, but this time, it was suspended during an orderly session.

What is Zero Hour in Parliament?

Parliament session begins with zero hour which is preceded by Question Hour, and after that, the Parliamentary proceedings begin. Although this term is related to parliamentary proceedings, Zero Hour in Parliament isn’t included in the agenda of the proceedings. Moreover, the Zero Hour proceedings are only visible to the presiding officer.

  • The time at which MPs or Members of Parliament talk about the issues that are urgent and important for the public is known as Zero Hour in Parliament. Members of parliament should provide an advanced notice before 10:00 a.m. to the Lok Sabha Speaker and chairman of Rajya Sabha for raising matters with subjects during this time.
  • Speakers of the Lok Sabha and the chairman of the Rajya Sabha can allow or deny the member to raise an issue related to public importance.
  • As Zero Hour does not appear in the parliamentary rules, it is an informal mechanism that members can use to discuss issues of urgent public importance without waiting 10 days in advance.
  • In parliamentary parlance, zero-hour refers to the critical moment or the decision-making moment in the parliament. It takes place between the question and before the initiation of the regular business. Also, this hour begins at 12 noon. Therefore, it is referred to as zero hour in Parliament.
  • This concept is neither mentioned in the Constitution nor the Parliamentary Rule book.
  • The duration of Zero Hour in Lok Sabha is 30 minutes, and each member of the Parliament is allocated 3 minutes to put up issues during this hour.
  • It has been an Indian innovation since 1962.

Origin of Zero Hour in Parliament

A number of urgent issues of public importance were raised immediately after the question hour in the early 1960s by the members of parliament that were sometimes with the chairman’s prayer permission and even sometimes without any permission, which resulted in the formation of zero hour.

  • It encouraged more and more members to take resort to this quick and handy device as a Zero Hour proceeding started stealing the limelight in the media.
  • As soon as the chairman over declares Question Hour, Zero Hour in Parliament starts, and MPs raise the matters which he considered to be of utmost public importance to be brought through houses to the Government.

Maximum Duration of Zero Hour in Lok Sabha

The maximum duration of Zero Hour in Lok Sabha is 30 minutes which starts sharp at 12 noon, just after the question hour during the proceedings. It is used by the Members of Parliament to raise urgent matters of public importance. Based on the duration of Zero Hour in Lok Sabha, every member gets 3 minutes to present an issue during this time.

When was Zero Hour in Parliament Introduced?

In the field of Parliamentary procedures, Zero Hour has been an Indian innovation since 1962. After the Question Hour during the sixties, the members of Parliament used to raise many issues of national and global importance.

  • When Parliament was in session, then a member could raise an issue about the announcement of policy made by the Minister outside the Parliament on such an occasion.
  • Rabi Ray, the 9th Lok Sabha speaker, made some alternatives in the house proceedings to create more opportunities for members to raise matters of urgent public importance.
  • To raise matters in a more orderly manner by the members and optimize the house’s time during the Zero hour, he suggested a mechanism to monitor the activities.
  • The day starts with the Zero Hour and not with the Question Hour in the case of Rajya Sabha, while in the case of Lok Sabha, the day starts with Question Hour.

Importance of Zero Hour

Zero Hour in Parliament can be seen as the mechanism in which MPs, by questioning the Minister about their policies and programs, make the government of the day accountable to the public. As most of the answers are submitted in the written, it puts pressure on the government to work efficiently with transparency.

Difference between Question Hour and Zero Hour

Question Hour is mentioned in the Rule of Procedure and is usually the day’s first hour. In Question Hour, the ministers are required to answer the questions by the member of Parliament with respect to their respective department ministries. This is a check on Ministerial/ Departmental functioning.

While Zero Hour occurs after the completion of Question Hour and before the start of the day’s business. It has been an Indian innovation since 1962.

Types of Questions Asked in Zero Hour

The question asked by the members of Parliament to the Minister is of all three types: Starred Question, Unstarred Question, and a Short Notice Question.

  • In a Starred question, supplementary questions can be followed as it requires an oral answer.
  • In an Unstarred question, supplementary questions cannot be followed as an Unstarred question requires a written answer.
  • The short Notice question is answered orally and asked by giving a notice of fewer than ten days.

Also, check the type of questions asked in the Question Hour here.

Impact of Question Hour and Zero Hour

If Question Hour is suspended, then,

  • The opposition loses the right to question the government.
  • Ministers are also not liable to answer the issues raised during the Zero Hour.

This means that the members of Parliament would not be able to hold the accountability of the government for its action, which is against Parliamentary Democracy. To shine a light on government function, members of Parliament have successfully used Question Hour (a parliamentary device) over the last 70 years. Questions asked by members of Parliament during Question Hour help bring data and information regarding government functions to the public domain.

As the proceedings of the Parliament hold the government answerable, Question Hour and Zero Hour should not be removed or suspended as it is against the constitutional provisions.

Zero Hour in Parliament UPSC

Zero Hour in Parliament is an essential topic in Polity Syllabus for UPSC. Aspirants should know about the duration of Zero Hour in the Indian Parliament, as questions about this can be asked in the Prelims and Mains exams. Also, check the sample UPSC questions on Zero Hour in Parliament MCQs below:

Q1 – Which of the following is not a formally prescribed device available to the members of Parliament? [Prelims]

  1. Question Hour
  2. Zero Hour
  3. Half-an-hour discussion
  4. Short-duration discussion

Answer – Option B

Q2 – Which of the following statements is/are correct regarding the Zero Hour? [Prelims]

  1. Zero Hour is the first hour of every sitting in both houses of Parliament.
  2. It is mentioned in the Rules of Business of the houses of Parliament.
  3. During this time, matters are raised without any prior notice.
  4. It is the time immediately following the Question Hour in Lok Sabha.
  5. It is an Indian innovation in parliamentary procedure since 1962.

Choose the correct option from the codes given below-

  1. 2, 3 and 4
  2. 3, 4 and 5
  3. 1, 2 and 5
  4. 2, 3 and 5

Answer– B

Q3 – Identify the nature and methods of parliamentary control over the executive in Indian polity. [Mains]

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