No question or zero hour in the Bihar assembly session

The Bihar assembly passed 12 bills as well as the supplementary budget without even a question being asked.

As the traditional four-day monsoon session was concluded in a day, Bihar legislators seem to have lost their right to question. The session did not have any Question hour, Zero hour or no call attention motion the entire time.
Most legislators were left high and dry as the only participation that the JD(U)-led NDA government allowed was a rather small one, over a short debate on the COVID situation and the state floods.

This action was not appreciated by the opposition MLAs.
RJD MLA Md Nematullah expressed his sadness over the rights of fellow legislators being underutilized and the government passing the supplementary budget without any questions raised howsoever. He emphasized over the statement that had the government wanted to, it could have successfully run a full four-day session.

Unlike every other time, this assembly was not carried out in the Bihar legislative building. Rather, the venue for the holding of this monsoon session was Gyan Bhawan, an 800-person seating capacity, well-designed convention hall, which was inaugurated in 2017 by the Chief Minister himself.

The acting secretary of the Bihar Assembly secretariat, Bhushan Jha, explained the reason for the shift in the venue being the pandemic, keeping in mind that the assembly hall cannot accommodate 242 MLAs. In Gyan Bhawan, however, social distancing was duly followed all through the session, with no more than 3 MLAs seated in one row. He also mentioned the special arrangements that were made as a precautionary measure against COVID-19. The hall was duly sanitized for 3 days before the session, MLAs were made to wear masks and go through thermal screening and each desk had separate attendance so that there was no violation of social distancing in any means whatsoever. No one without a pass could enter the premises. Two MLAs did not attend the session due to testing positive for the virus, namely Chandrika Rai and Lallan Paswan.

The session held on Monday happened to be the 16th and last session of the current Bihar Assembly before the elections this year. The session before this was abruptly adjourned and was according to law, due to be scheduled under 6 months that is before the 16th of September.

JDU minister said that September would have been very late considering the election commission announced the election dates, and holding the session just before the 16th of September would have been difficult. It was also mentioned that the idea of a one-day session was agreed to by all the parties, in an all-party meeting organized by Speaker Vijay Kumar Choudhary.

The government’s decision was strongly supported by the ruling party MLAs.
BJP MLA Gyanendra Singh Gyanu said that though it was a sad occurrence where no questions could be asked or addressed, the current pandemic situation must be kept in mind, and it is the duty of the government to ensure the safety of all legislators. Thus, the session concluded with basic constitutional requirements.
Vijay Kumar Choudhary, the Assembly speaker, laid emphasis on the safety issue, pointing out the reason why the session was shifted to Gyan Bhawan. He asked the MLAs to take the information and the COVID Kit before leaving the halls.

Aamir Khan

Aamir Khan is a student at the Centre for Chinese and South-east Asian Studies, JNU, New Delhi. He also works with Hasratein- a Delhi based queer collective. The current area of his academic interest lies in the study of the Chinese language and society.