Chapter 3
Questions

Types of questions
LSR 36,50
RSR 42,56

 

3.1 Questions are of three kinds, viz., starred, unstarred, and short notice questions.

(a)  Starred questions: These are answered orally on the floor of the House and with reference to the reply given; members are entitled to ask supplementary questions. These are to be intelligently anticipated in the note for supplementaries prepared for the use of the Minister.

 

LSR 36,39
RSR 42

(b)  Unstarred questions: These call for written replies which are placed on the Table of the House and no supplementaries are asked in respect of such replies.

 

LSR 54
RSR 58

 

(c)    Short notice questions: These may be put only in regard to matters of public importance of an urgent character at shorter notice than provided for in the Rules of the two Houses (vide para 3.2 below) and are answered orally as starred questions. The special features that characterise these questions are dealt with in paragraph 3.12.

 

Notice for question
PRO 1.3
LSR 35
RSR 41

3.2 The LS/RS Secretariat gives at least five days notice to the Minister concerned to answer a question. In practice, however, in order to give the concerned department as much time as possible for the preparation of an answer, an advance copy of a question in the provisionally admitted form is forwarded to that department by the LS/RS Secretariat.

 

Scrutiny of Questions
PRO 1.4

 

 

3.3 On receipt of the provisionally admitted version of the question from the Parliament Unit, the concerned section will immediately examine it and take the following action:

 

PRO 1.18 to 1.21
Cabinet Secretariat’s D.O. letter No.73/2/15/85-Cab. Dated 25.4.1985, 11.3.87,
No.73/2/39/91-Cab.
Dated 13.12.91 No.1/25/25/98-Cab.
Dated 15.4.99 & No1/25/52/2000-Cab. Dated 17.2.01

(a)  (i) If it does not pertain to the department on the basis of the Allocation of Business Rules, the branch officer concerned will ring up the appropriate officer in the department to which the question belongs for transfer of the question. If the transfer is agreed to by him, the question will be transferred immediately and the fact of the transfer will be communicated on telephone to the LS/RS Secretariat followed by a written communication to the question branch of the said Secretariat. If, however, the officer in the other department does not agree to accept, the Secretary of the department will discuss the matter with the Secretary of the other department to resolve the issue.

      (ii) If some of its components pertain to the sphere and responsibility of another department(s), the procedure as detailed in preceding sub-para will be followed to decide upon the department which, given the thrust of the question will answer the question and the other department(s) will furnish the relevant facts relating thereto to the department concerned to enable it to prepare the answer to the question.

      (iii) If despite following the procedure as set out in sub-para (i) and (ii) above, irreconciliable differences still exist among departments on handling the parliament question, a reference giving details of discussions, etc., held with the other department(s), will be made to the Cabinet Secretariat by the department with the approval of the Secretary. If in the mean time the question is printed in the List of Questions, the question may be answered under compulsion but thereafter the matter will be pursued with the concerned department(s) requesting them to accept future questions on the subject.

(b)  If it pertains to some other section, it will not be returned to the Parliament Unit but its transfer to the appropriate section will be settled either at the level of section officer or branch officer. Should this fail, the assistance of the O&M officer or other higher officer will be sought to resolve the issue without any delay or noting.

 

LSR 41,42 RSR 47,48 SD 10(A) PRO 1.6, 1.7, 1.11 to 1.17

 

(c)        It will be examined whether the question is admissible for reply in terms of provisions quoted in the margin.

 

Communication of facts to the LS/RS Secretariat
PRO 1.4,1.8

3.4.1 If considered necessary by the department or if required by the LS/RS Secretariat, relevant facts may be communicated to the Secretariat concerned as expeditiously as possible, but in any case not later than the specified date or within 48 hours of the receipt of such references as the case may be, for  consideration of the Speaker/Chairman for deciding the admissibility of the question. If a reply cannot be sent in time, an interim reply explaining the reasons for delay will be given at once followed by the facts as soon as they are known. Clarifications, where necessary, will be sought from the LS/RS Secretariat and not from the member concerned.

 

3.4.2 When communicating facts, information of a confidential nature will be marked as such, and the LS/RS Secretariat be advised that the information should not be disclosed to the member(s) giving notice thereof. 

 

Material for reply

3.5.1 Immediately after communicating facts in the manner prescribed in the preceding paragraph, action will be initiated to collect the material for framing a draft reply and also, where necessary, a note for supplementaries. While the highest priority will be given to the collection of the required material, the following points will be borne in mind:

(a) Expensive methods of collecting information from outstation sources, such as elaborate telegrams, cablegrams and telephone trunk calls should in the normal course be avoided, as far as possible. References in this connection could however, be made by fax or at e-mail addresses of the authorities concerned, if possible.

(b) Information to be sought will be limited to what is not available or what is required to update the available information.

(c) Only the authorities specifically concerned and in a position to give the relevant information will be approached.

 

Transfer of question to a subsequent date
PRO 1.22

 

(d) If it is not possible for the department to collect all the information for reply to a starred question within the time available, as the information is sometimes to be collected from various authorities in different parts of the country, the Minister will inform the Speaker/Chairman about it, as early as possible, but not later than the day preceding that on which the question is listed; that the information for the reply to that question is being collected and that he would be in a position to reply to that question subsequently on another date during the session. If the Speaker/Chairman agrees, the question will be transferred from that day’s list of questions to a subsequent date, as requested. The question so transferred will have the same priority in the new list of questions as it had obtained in the original list. on to give the relevant information will be approached.

 

Note for supplementaries

  

3.5.2 Tabulation or compilation of information or data collected for framing a reply or for drafting a note for supplementaries will be started without waiting for the replies from all those who have been addressed.

 

Drafting of reply

3.6 While drafting the reply, the following points will be borne in mind:

 

PRO 1.23

 

(a) The preparation of a tentative draft reply and a draft note for supplementaries, where necessary, will be undertaken immediately on receipt of the provisionally admitted question. The draft reply so prepared will be reviewed on receipt of the printed list of admitted questions and, if necessary, revised so that it conforms to the admitted form of the question. To facilitate this, the Parliament Unit will keep in contact with the LS/RS Secretariat and ascertain the text of the question as finally admitted for the information of the section concerned, even before the printed list is received. This will be done a couple of days before the printed list is received, i.e., as soon as the final list is ready in the LS/RS Secretariat for being sent to the press.

 

PRO 1.23

 

(b) In preparing a draft reply, parts of the question will be reproduced and replies thereto set out in parallel columns against each part. In cases of starred questions, the position of the question in the printed list will be indicated on the top, right hand corner of the draft reply.

 

SD 13(A)
PRO 1.23

(c) The reply will be as precise, unambiguous and complete as possible, taking particular care to avoid expressions which are liable to be construed as evasive or as implying an assurance unless it is clearly intended to give one. As far as possible, each part of the question should be answered separately.

 

PRO 1.22

 

(d) As far as possible, an interim reply to the effect that information is being collected and will be placed on the Table of the House should be avoided. This is particularly important in the case of starred questions, where such a reply will unnecessarily take the time of the House and also deprive members of an opportunity to ask supplementary questions.

If for some unavoidable and unforseeable circumstances, an interim reply becomes inescapable, it should be ensured that:

      (i) the required information is expected with a reasonable degree of certainty to be available subsequently; and
(ii) there would be no objection to disclosing it.

(e)  If, on the basis of whatever information is already available with the department or has been obtained from the outside agencies, a satisfactory reply could be framed, the feasibility of giving such a reply, although not strictly complete, may be considered without calling for further information or holding out an assurance.

 

PRO 1.30,1.31

 

(f)  Where a question calls for elaborate reply or detailed figures, the reading of which is likely to take more than 15 seconds, a statement giving the required information will be prepared and attached to the reply. In the case of a starred question, the reply will merely state that a statement is being placed on the Table of the House. In the case of an unstarred question, however, there is no need to say so specifically.

(g) When a reply to a question refers to the information available in a document, whether published under the authority of the Government or otherwise, copies of such a document will invariably be placed in the Parliament library before the answer is given or laid on the Table of the House.

 

LSR 51
RSR 57

 

 

(h)  An answer to a question will not refer to the answer to a question or proceedings in the other House during a current session.

 

PRO 1.6, 1.13

 

(i)   If a question is on the printed list, it has to be answered, even though the reply may be that it would not be in the public interest to give the information asked for.

 

PRO 1.32

 

(j)   When the original question is in Hindi, the reply will be in Hindi and will be treated as the authentic version and the English version will be treated as its translation.

 

Note for supplementaries

3.7 A note for supplementaries for the use of the Minister will be added to all draft replies to starred and short notice questions. It will be comprehensive but as brief as possible and will take into account the likely supplementaries with reference to the nature of the question and the context in which the member has raised it.

 

Translation of questions into Hindi
PRO 1.32,1.33

3.8.1 The draft reply will be in the language (Hindi/English) in which the question is put, accompanied by a translation in the other language. On return of the file from the Minister, the Parliament Unit will ensure that the translation takes into account the changes made in the draft reply, before it is stenciled/photocopied. Wherever possible, the English version of the answer may be cyclostyled/photocopied on the back of the Hindi version. In case of any doubt between the English translation and Hindi text of such questions, the department may make a reference to the Secretariat concerned to seek a clarification.

 

PRO 1.34

3.8.2 Under the existing requirements, Hindi and English versions of the answer to a question will be given simultaneously. Where, however, the answer involves laying on the Table of the House a lengthy statement or document which is available only in English, such papers may be laid on the Table of the House in English along with the statement explaining the reasons for not laying the Hindi version of the document(s), etc., and stating when the Hindi version would be made available to members. However, efforts will be made to make such document(s) available in Hindi as soon as possible. Where the Hindi version is laid on the Table of the House subsequently, the instructions contained in paragraph 4.1(h) will be followed.

 

Dispatch of reply to the LS/RS Sectt. PRO 1.24

3.9.1 Replies to the questions will be sent to the LS/RS Secretariat so as to reach not later than 15.00 hours on the working day preceding the day on which the question is due for reply.

 

PRO 1.5

3.9.2 All communications from departments addressed to the Parliament Secretariats in connection with questions, etc., which are normally meant for submission to the Presiding Officers, should be deemed to be important communications and signed personally by an appropriate senior officer.

 

Communicating the name of the Minister who will be answering the Questions
PRO 1.35

 

3.10 The Parliament Unit will circulate within the department, in advance, a list showing the distribution amongst Ministers of the starred question(s) to be answered by them on a particular day. Where, for unavoidable reasons, the question has to be answered by a Minister, Minister of State, Deputy Minister or Parliamentary Secretary not incharge of the department, the fact will be communicated by the Parliament Unit to the LS/RS Secretariat by 15.00 hours on the working day preceding the day on which the question is due for reply.

 

NO advance publicity
SD 13(3)
LSR 53
RSR 59

 

3.11 Replies to questions which Ministers propose to give, will not be given any publicity until the answers are given on the floor of the House or laid on the Table of the House.

 

Short notice question LSR 54 RSR 58

 

3.12.1 It is within the discretion of the Minister not to accept a short notice question.

 

PRO 1.18
LSR 54
RSR 58

3.12.2 The advance copy of such a question, when received, will be transmitted at once to the branch officer concerned and also brought to his notice orally. If received outside office hours, the central registry will send it to the residence of the branch officer concerned after consulting the Parliament Unit. The branch officer will obtain such instructions as may be necessary, from higher officers and submit the file immediately giving his remarks whether it would be possible to answer it at short notice. If the recommendation is that the question could be accepted, a draft reply with a suitable note for supplementaries will be put up for submission to the Minister, suggesting the date on which he may answer the question. The date approved by the Minister will be communicated to the LS/RS Secretariat.

 

PRO 1.18

3.12.3 If, having regard to the nature of the question, it is found to be inadmissible under the rules [vide para 3.3(c)], or if the question is not acceptable to the Minister, these facts will be communicated promptly and in any case within two days to the LS/RS Secretariat.

 

Question requiring approval of the Prime Minister

3.13 Draft replies to certain questions require the approval of the Prime Minister. In this connection, detailed instructions issued by the Prime Minister’s Office specifying the type or nature of questions requiring such approval and the procedure to be followed in that behalf, will be observed.

 

Variations in answer to a question

3.14 Where a Minister, while replying to a question, varies the answer, the department concerned will immediately communicate the fact to the LS/RS Secretariat as well as to the Information Officer concerned and ensure that the necessary corrections are made in the copies already supplied.

 

Number of copies to be supplied
PRO 1.24

3.15.1 The number of copies (English and Hindi versions) of answers to questions including short notice questions and statements correcting answers to previous questions to be sent to the LS/RS Secretariat may be ascertained from the Secretariat concerned.

 

 

3.15.2 The prescribed number of copies in English and Hindi (to be ascertained from the Lok/Rajya Sabha Secretariat) of each of the replies to all the questions and a statements made or laid on the Table of the House as part of replies to questions, will be sent to the Translation Branch.

 

 

3.15.3 Four hundred copies in English and 100 copies in Hindi, or 500 copies where English and Hindi versions are printed on the obverse and reverse, of answers to questions will be supplied to the Press Information Bureau.

 

Corrections to answers to questions/short notice questions/incorrect statements
PRO 1.36
SD 16
SD 16A

3.16 If inadvertently, an answer to a question contains any inaccuracy, the procedure as given below will be followed:

(a)  Within a week of the reply the Minister will ordinarily give the Secretary General, Lok/Rajya Sabha a notice of his intention to make/lay statement along with a copy of the statement proposed to be made/laid giving reasons for the delay in laying such a statement, if the delay is more than seven days.

 

PRO 1.37

 

(b)    The prescribed number of copies each of Hindi and English versions of the statement to be made/laid by the Minister, along with the authenticated copies each in Hindi and English versions, explaining reasons for delay, if necsssary, will be sent so as to reach the LS/RS Secretariat by 15.00 hours at the latest, on the working day preceding the day on which the statement is to be made/laid.

 

SD 16(ii)
PRO 1.38,1.41

 

 

(c)  If the House is in session:

      (i) in the case of starred questions/short notice questions/statements, whether for the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha, the item would be included in the list of business on an appropriate date and the Minister will be called upon to make the statement in the House or lay it on the Table of the House. After the statement has been made, the Speaker may permit members to ask supplementary questions, strictly relevant to the subject matter of the corrections made by the Minister.

 

SD 16 A(ii) & (iii) PRO 1.45

 

 

      (ii) In case of unstarred questions for the Lok/Rajya Sabha, the item would be included in the list of questions for written answers on the appropriate date in the following manner:

      “The Minister of. ................................... to lay a statement correcting the reply given on the ............... 20..…... to unstarred question No. ......................... by Sh. ..................... regarding .............................”

 

SD16(iii) 
SD 16 A(iv)
PRO 1.42

 

 

 

(d)  If a House is not in session:

      (i) in the case of starred questions, either the Minister may be called upon to make the statement during the next session; or

      (ii) the statement may be included in the official report of the debates with a footnote in the following manner:

      “The original reply or statement by the Minister reads as follows:

XXX XXX XXX

      The reply as printed above was sent by the Minister afterwards in substitution of the original reply.”

      NOTE: Where it is not considered desirable to publish the original reply, only the revised reply will be printed with a suitable footnote.

      (iii) in the case of unstarred questions, procedure as described above in (d) (ii) will be followed.

 

Half-an-hour discussion on a matter of public importance arising out of answer to a question
LSR 55
RSR 60

3.17.1 On a notice being given by a member, the Speaker/ Chairman may allot half-an-hour for discussion on a matter of sufficient public importance, which has been the subject of a recent question and the answer to which needs elucidation on a matter of fact. The discussion is restricted to:

(a)  the member who gave notice making a short statement;   

(b)  the Minister making a short reply; and

(c)    other members, not exceeding four, in the case of the Lok Sabha, asking supplementary questions.

 

 

3.17.2 The advance copy of the notice for half-an-hour discussion, when received, will be transmitted at once to the branch officer concerned and also brought to his notice orally. If received outside office hours, the central registry will send it to the residence of the branch officer concerned after consulting the Parliament Unit.

 

 

3.17.3 Where the stipulated notice of 3 days has not been given, the branch officer will:

(a)  put up the file for ascertaining if the Minister is agreeable to holding the discussion; and

(b)    communicate the fact to the LS/RS Secretariat if the Minister does not agree to hold the discussion.

 

 

3.17.4 Where the stipulated period of notice has been given or the Minister agrees to hold the discussion without the stipulated period of notice, action will be taken immediately to:

(a)  gather all the necessary facts; and

(b)    prepare a brief for the use of the Minister.

SD 19

 

3.17.5 When half-an-hour discussion is interrupted for want of quorum or when there is no time for the Minister to give a full reply to the debate, he may, with the permission of the Speaker, lay a statement on the Table of the House.