TODAY -

Question Hour :1st and 2nd session of 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly

Prof (Dr) Nimai Chand Luwang *



The procedure, practice and proceedings of the Parliament and the Assembly afford ample opportunity for the "daily and periodic assessment" of functioning and responsibility of the various Government Departments and Ministries.

The procedure of Questions and subsequent supplementaries and, in case of unsatisfactory answer, of a Half–an-Hour Discussion, enable information to be elicited and lapses to be exposed in Govt activities. Being responsible to the Legislature, the State Government is obliged to place information on all matters of administration before the Assembly.

Members of the Legislative Assembly, in public interest, are duty-bound to obtain and elicit information on all matters of the administration by way of asking Questions in the State legislature. In addition, the activities and performances of the MLAs can be evaluated on the basis of their abilities to ask questions in the Assembly Proceedings.

There is an elaborate set of rules for the conduct of business relating to Questions. Rules 39-62 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of the Manipur Legislative Assembly deals with the procedure and different aspects of Questions in the Manipur Legislative Assembly.

As per the provision of Rule 44, "Unless the Speaker otherwise directs, the first hour of every sitting shall be available for the asking and answering of questions, Short Notice questions having precedence over others."

Oral answers are given to Short Notice and Starred Questions, whereas, only Written Answer are given to the Unstarred questions. The 1st session of the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly was held during the period from 24th March 2022 to 26th March 2022. There were three sittings. As per convention and provisions in the Rules, Question hour should be allotted on these days.

However, no Question hour was allotted in the item of business, violating the rules of business of the Assembly. The 2nd session of the 12th Manipur legislative Assembly was held from 25th July 2022 to 5th August 2022. There were eleven sittings. As has happened earlier, no Question hour was allotted for the sitting on 25th July 2022.

Question hour was allotted for the sittings on 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th, and 30th July 2022 and 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th August 2022. There were altogether 96 Starred Questions and 44 Unstarred Questions during the session—an average of 8.7 Questions per sitting. These 96 Starred Questions were asked by fourteen MLAs, 40 questions came from 4 members of the Congress MLAs sitting in the Opposition; 56 Starred Questions were asked by 9 MLAs belonging to the Ruling party.

There are 46 MLAs, excluding 12 Ministers, 1 Speaker and 1 Hill Area Committee Chairman who are entitled to ask Questions. Of them, only 14 MLAs exercised the opportunity to ask Questions and 32 of them failed to avail the opportunity given to them. There were ten starred questions on the sitting on 26th July 2022; eight on 27th July 2022, ten on 28th July; nine on 29th July; eleven on 30th July; nine on 1st August; eleven on 2nd August; nine on 3rd August; ten on 4th August and ten on 5th August 2022.

Shri Kh. Joykisan Singh asked 18 questions; Shri K. Ranjit Singh asked 16 questions; Shri Surjakumar Okram asked 14 questions; Shri Ram Muivah asked 13 questions; Shri Th. Lokeshwar Singh asked 9 questions; Shri LM Khaute asked 8 questions; Mohd. Achab Uddin asked 4 questions; Alhaj Abdul Nasir asked 4 questions; Shri Paolienlal Haokip asked 3 questions; Shri Chinlunthang asked 2 questions; Shri Th. Shyamkumar Singh asked 1 question and Shri K. Meghachandra Singh asked 1 question.

In the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly, 20 MLAs are first timers. Among these, 7 of them utilized the opportunity of asking questions on the floor of the House. It may be noted that the majority of members sitting on the ruling bench did not ask questions for reasons which could not be explained even by one experienced in Parliamentary practice.

Questions assume high importance in legislatures because of the Government's involvement in matters affecting day-to-day life of citizens for which Ministers are collectively answerable to the people. Asking questions is a refined and powerful Parliamentary tool which can be used by MLAs. Questions are asked to elicit information, to ensure accountability, and for exercising legislative control over executive actions.

It is a very strong tool available to the Parliamentarians that can be used by members of Parliament/Assemblies to seek information or to press for action. They oblige Ministers to explain and defend the work, policy decisions and actions of their departments. We encourage our MLAs to take active part in the debates and discussions in the Assembly proceedings. MLAs are elected primarily to perform these duties and functions.

The public who voted the MLAs are observing and watching their a ctivities in the Assembly. Newly elected MLAs should learn the Parliamentary practice and asking questions will be the preliminary step towards the learning process. It appears that there is a misconception amongst the MLAs, especially among the first-timers belonging to the ruling party, that they are barred from asking questions and in taking active part in the discussions during the Assembly sittings.

MLAs belonging either to the ruling or the Opposition have equal rights and are entitled to ask questions and there is nothing which prohibits them from doing so. In fact, their role as an MLA is enhanced by taking part in the debates, discussions and deliberations during the proceedings of the House. Disclaimer: The article has been written based on my personal experience.

I did not mean to cast aspersions, criticize nor undermine the functioning of the August House as well as that of its Hon'ble Members. It is solely intended for bringing improvement in the efficiency and functioning of the House in the light of public interest. The writer is a former Member of Manipur Assembly (five times; 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th )


* Prof (Dr) Nimai Chand Luwang wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a former Member of the Manipur Legislative Assembly (4th, 5th, 6th,7th and 8th Assemblies)
This article was webcasted on November 29 2022 .



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