Zero Hour - Indian Polity Notes

Zero Hour is the time when Members of Parliament (MPs) can raise Issues of Urgent Public Importance. For raising matters during the Zero Hour, MPs must give the notice before 10 am to the Speaker/ Chairman on the day of the sitting. The notice must state the subject they wish to raise in the House. However, Speaker, Lok Sabha / Chairman, Rajya Sabha may allow or decline a Member to raise a matter of importance.

It is important to know the various parliamentary devices for an understanding of Indian polity and its functioning, which is part of the UPSC syllabus. In this article, the term zero hour in parliament is discussed and explained for the IAS exam.

‘Zero Hour’ is not mentioned in the Rules of Procedure. Thus, it is an informal device available to MPs to raise matters without any notice 10 days in advance. This is because, generally, the matters are of public importance and such matters cannot wait for 10 days.

The candidates can read more relevant information from the links provided below:

Devices of Parliamentary Proceedings Overview of the Constitution
Lok Sabha Types of Writs in India
Lok Sabha Speaker [Article 93 – 96] President of India

Why is it called ‘Zero Hour’?

While the dictionary meaning of ‘Zero Hour’ is “the critical moment” or “the moment of decision”, in parliamentary parlance, it is the time gap between the end of Question Hour and the beginning of the regular business. The other rationale behind naming it so can be attributed to the fact that it starts at 12 noon.

Origin of Zero Hour

  • The emergence of Zero Hour can be traced to the early sixties, when many issues of great public importance and urgency began to be raised by members immediately after Question Hour, sometimes with prior permission of the Chairman or some other times without such permission.
  • A practice started developing that as soon as the Chairman declared “Question Hour is over” a member would be on his feet to raise a matter which he considered or felt to be of utmost importance to be brought to the attention of the House, and through the House, to the Government, and which could not brook any delay nor could it await to be raised by following the normal land available procedures. 
  • The Zero-Hour proceedings started stealing the limelight in the media, thereby encouraging more and more members to take resort to this quick and handy device.
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When was Zero Hour introduced in Parliamentary Affairs in India?

  • Zero Hour is an Indian innovation in the field of parliamentary procedures and has been in existence since 1962. 
  • During the sixties, members of parliament used to raise many pressing issues of national and global import after Question Hour. 
  • On such an occasion, a member raised an issue about announcements of policy made by ministers outside the parliament when parliament was in session. 
  • This act caused an idea among other members who called for another provision for discussing important matters in the House.
  • Rabi Ray, the ninth Speaker of the Lok Sabha introduced certain changes in the proceedings of the House to create more opportunities for the members to raise matters of urgent public importance. 
  • He proposed a mechanism to regulate the proceedings during the ‘Zero Hour’, raise matters in a more orderly manner and optimize the time of the House.
  • For the Rajya Sabha, the day starts with the Zero Hour and not the Question Hour as it is for the Lok Sabha.

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