Zero Hour

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Members of Parliament (MPs) may bring up issues that are urgently important to the public during Zero Hour. MPs must notify the Speaker or Chairman of any items they wish to bring up during the Zero Hour before 10 am on the day of the meeting. The topic they intend to bring up in the House must be specified in the notification. However, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha can approve or reject a Member’s request to raise an important issue.

Historical Context

The lame duck session has roots in English legislative tradition and has played a variety of roles in political processes around the world. The expression “lame duck” was first used to refer to financially struggling merchants in England in the 18th century. It was first used in American politics at the beginning of the 19th century to refer to departing officials during the transitional period.

What does “Zero Hour” mean?

While “Zero Hour” in the dictionary refers to “the crucial moment” or “the moment of decision,” in parliamentary jargon, it refers to the interval between Question Hour and the start of the regular business. The fact that it begins at 12 o’clock is the second justification for the name.

Origin of Zero Hour

  1. When several urgent and important public concerns started to be discussed by members immediately following Question Period in the early 1960s, sometimes with the Chairman’s prior consent and other times without, the concept of Zero Hour was born.
  2. A custom began to emerge whereby a member would rise as soon as the chairman announced that “Question Hour is over” to bring a matter to the attention of the House and, through the House, to the Government. This issue could not brook any delay and could not wait to be raised by adhering to the standard land available procedures.
  3. More and more members are turning to this simple and useful tool as a result of the Zero-Hour proceedings taking over the media spotlight.

When was Zero Hour introduced in Parliamentary Affairs in India?

  1. Since 1962, Zero Hour has been a groundbreaking innovation in parliamentary procedure developed in India.
  2. After Question Hour, lawmakers used to discuss a variety of urgent topics with broad national and international implications.
  3. On one such instance, a member brought up the subject of ministers making policy statements outside the parliament while it was in session.
  4. Other members were inspired by this act to propose a different rule for critical subjects to be discussed in the House.
  5. To provide members more chances to bring up urgent public issues, Rabi Ray, the ninth Speaker of the Lok Sabha, suggested some adjustments to the House’s procedures.
  6. In order to raise issues in a more orderly manner and make the most of the House’s time, he proposed a mechanism to control the proceedings during the “Zero Hour.”
  7. Unlike the Lok Sabha, when the day begins with Question Hour, the Rajya Sabha begins the day with Zero Hour.

Key Functions and Significance

Lame duck meetings fulfill a number of crucial tasks in democratic systems, including the following:

  1. Completing Pending Business: Addressing and concluding legislative issues that might have gone unresolved before the election is one of the main goals of a lame duck session. This can involve approving budgetary legislation, validating judicial nominations, and dealing with pressing policy matters. To avoid a government shutdown, for instance, Congress in the United States frequently needs to pass funding legislation.
  2. Transition and Continuity: Lame Duck Sessions guarantee a peaceful changeover of power from one administration to the next. They give departing officials a way to transfer duties, orient their replacements, and guarantee that crucial government operations keep running smoothly. This can be particularly crucial when the new administration belongs to a different political party.
  3. Last-Minute Executive Actions: Exiting officials, such as presidents or governors, may use the lame duck session to make last-minute decisions that they feel are important or politically contentious. This can involve making nominations to important positions, signing executive orders, or granting pardons. These behaviors could occasionally be perceived as divisive or politically motivated.
  4. Political Manipulation: Lame duck meetings can serve as a forum for bargaining and political manoeuvring. Before the transfer of power is complete, both departing and new officials could try to advance their policy preferences or accomplish specific goals. This may result in protracted discussions and compromises.

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