Zero Hour in Parliament: Meaning, Origin, What is Zero Hour

By Shubhra Anand Jain|Updated : October 3rd, 2022

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 Central Government had decided to suspend Question Hour and curtail Zero Hour for the Monsoon session. Question Hour was suspended earlier also during the National Emergencies, but this time, it has been done during a regular session.

Table of Content

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.

Zero Hour in Parliament UPSC [PDF]

  • 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 the 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.
  • 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.

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 nation 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.
  • To create more opportunities for members to raise matters of urgent public importance, Rabi Ray- the 9th speaker of the Lok Sabha, introduced certain changes in the proceedings of the house.
  • To raise matters in a more orderly manner by the members and optimize the house's time, he proposed a mechanism to regulate the proceedings during the Zero Hour.
  • The day starts with the Zero Hour and not with the Question Hour in the case of Raj 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.

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 Parliamentary proceedings mean to hold the government accountable, Question Hour and Zero Hour should not be suspended or curtailed as it is against the essence of the Constitution.

Zero Hour in Parliament UPSC

Zero Hour in Parliament is an essential topic in Polity Syllabus for UPSC. Questions from the topic can be asked in both UPSC Prelims and Mains. To prepare this or other relevant topics related to Indian Polity or current affairs, you can also download the NCERT Books for UPSC or Indian Polity UPSC Books from the links here.

Also, check the sample UPSC questions on Zero Hour in Parliament given 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 the 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]

Other Important UPSC Notes
Veto Power of PresidentExtremist Phase
Dedicated Freight CorridorMekong Ganga Cooperation
Kigali AmendmentRight to Equality
Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan YojanaImportant Articles of Indian Constitution

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FAQs on Zero Hour in Parliament

  • Zero Hour in Parliament is an Indian innovation since 1962 which occurs after the completion of Question Hour and before the start of the business of the day.

  • Question Hour is the first hour of the day, which is also mentioned in the Rule of Procedure in which ministers are required to answer the questions asked by the members of Parliament. Immediately after the question hour, the zero hour begins which allows MPs to raise questions on public interest in the session.

  • Question Hour is the first hour of the Lok Sabha session wherein members question the government with respect to their respective department ministries while Zero Hour immediately followed the Question Hour in the Lok Sabha.

  • The ninth Speaker of Lok Sabha Rabi Ray regulated this practice for the first time in 1962, which means Zero Hour is an Indian innovation in parliamentary proceedings.

  • In Parliament, the Zero Hour begins at 12 noon immediately after the question hour. It allows the Members of Parliament to talk about issues of public importance.

  • The duration of Zero Hour in Lok Sabha is 30 minutes and each member gets three minutes to raise an issue on the matter.

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