The annual Budget session of the Delhi government is set to commence on Monday with two key changes to be introduced for the very first time in its proceedings since 1993.
First, the entire Assembly session will be held for the full day, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., instead of its traditional time from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. And second, the session will be held without any 'Question Hour'.
While the Assembly sessions in many other states are full-day affairs from the morning to the evening, the Delhi Assembly since its inception in 1993 has been conducting the proceedings between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
According to former Delhi Assembly Secretary S.K. Sharma, after the first Assembly elections in Delhi in 1993, the Delhi Council of Ministers led by then Chief Minister Madan Lal Khurana had presented the first ever Budget of an elected government in Delhi, fixing the session timing between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. It has become a tradition since then.
Sharma said: "Although several special sessions (emergency sessions) have been held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on special occasions, the entire Delhi Assembly has never functioned for a full-day. It will be a first if the Budget session is held between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. from Monday onwards.
"After the elections in 1993, Charti Lal Goel, the first Speaker of Delhi Assembly, had invited the elected Council of Ministers to present the annual Budget in the morning. However, Chief Minister Madan Lal Khurana made a request to change the timing of the proceedings, following which it was fixed from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. It has become a tradition since then."
According to Sharma, to run the entire session for a full-day, the elected government needs to have enough agendas in its bag to discuss.
In another first, the Assembly session will be conducted without any 'Question Hour'.
While the Chief Minister's Office is yet to make its stand clear on missing the Question Hour, the leader of the opposition in Delhi Assembly and BJP MLA Ramvir Singh Bidhuri has slammed the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government for the move, terming it as an assault on democracy.
Bidhuri on Friday accused the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government of running away from its responsibility of answering questions on key issues concerning the people of the national capital.
MLAs are informed about convening the Assembly session 15 days in advance so that they can raise important issues concerning the people.
"This is a clear violation of the rights of the elected representatives who have been denied the right to ask questions to the government," Bidhuri had said on Friday.
Speaking on the matter, Sharma said: "For any MLA, the Question Hour is the main opportunity to express the concerns of the people of his constituency. If the Question Hour session is not made part of the Assembly proceedings, the debates may become one-sided."
Delhi Assembly Secretary C. Velmurugan told IANS: "The Question Hour is undoubtedly an important part of the session, but it is up to the elected government and the Speaker to decide." Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the finance portfolio, will present the annual Budget on March 9.