UML lawmaker Khagaraj Adhikari speaking at a meeting of House of Representatives on Aug 9

A motion  on a matter of urgent public importance, titled “About directing [the government] to align election-related laws  with the Constitution”, was presented before the House of Representatives (HoR) for discussion on  August 9, 2022. The motion sought to ensure proportional representation of women candidates in the November parliamentary and provincial assembly elections.

Speaking at the meeting, Khagaraj Adhikari, a lawmaker from the main opposition Communist Party of Nepal (UML), claimed that Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who took office a year ago, hadn’t attended any Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) sessions in Parliament. Adhikari claimed that this shows that neither the prime minister nor the ruling alliance was  accountable to the legislature.

Adhikari, a former home minister, said, “As per Rule 9 of the House of Representatives Regulation, the prime minister has to answer lawmakers’ questions twice a month for an hour. The ruling party, [and] the governing coalition, is not accountable to Parliament, Rt. Honourable Speaker. Has the PMQs session ever been organised  since Sher Bahadur Deuba became prime minister? Are they accountable [to Parliament]?”

Two claims

Adhikari made two claims about the Prime Minister’s Question in Parliament.

1. There is a legal provision requiring the prime minister to answer lawmakers’ questions twice a month for an hour in Parliament.

2. Since he became Prime Minister on July 13, 2022, Sher Bahadur Deuba has not held any PMQs session. Therefore, both Deuba and his government are not accountable to Parliament.

Nepal Check has fact-checked Adhikari’s claims.

To fact-check the first claim, we studied the House of Representatives Regulation, 2019. According to Rule 9 of the regulation, “To ask questions on important topics directly related to the prime minister or the ministries under him or her, the speaker can allocate the first hour of the first meeting that sits on the first and third week of each month”.  

The regulation states that  members, after being called upon by the speaker, “can rise from their seat and ask a question to the prime minister”. The regulation also mandates that the prime minister “immediately answer such a question.” But, as per the regulation, “an answer to a question related to the ministries under the jurisdiction of the prime minister can be given by a minister assigned by the prime minister in his or her absence following the speaker’s permission to do so.”

Therefore, Adhikari’s claim that the HoR Regulation requires the prime minister to answer lawmakers’ questions twice a month for an hour is correct. 

Adhikari also claimed that since he became the Prime Minister, Deuba hasn’t attended PMQs. 

We conducted a search on Google using keywords in Nepali: “Prime Minister Parliament Question and Answer session.” Our search didn’t return  any results on the PMQs after Deuba came to power a year ago. 

We however found a news report published on January 18, 2019 which said Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli answered questions from 10 parliamentarians, including Khagaraj Adhikari.

Nepal Check called Ekram Giri, joint secretary at the Federal Parliament Secretariat, to know more. Giri said PMQs hasn’t been held since the current coalition government came to power in July 2021.

Missing Context

Though Adhikari’s claim that Prime Minister Deuba has not yet held PMQs is correct, he conceals an important context and relevant details.

According to Clause 58 of Rule 9 of the HoR Regulation 2019, any lawmaker wishing to ask a question to the prime minister must inform the speaker in writing about the subject of the question an hour before the meeting begins. As per the regulation, the speaker “can allocate the first hour of the first meeting that sits on the first and third week of each month”

The regulation makes it clear that the speaker and the members play crucial roles in organising PMQs. But Adhikari, either deliberately or unknowingly, failed to provide the context and details in his speech.  He also didn’t clarify whether or not he submitted questions to the speaker as per the regulation. 

While Adhikari rightly claimed that the prime minister hadn’t appeared in PMQs  and that a government should be accountable to Parliament, he failed to acknowledge his own role as an MP in asking questions and the speaker’s role in organising a PMQs session. 

In other words, Adhikari referred to a legal provision requiring the prime minister to answer  lawmakers’ questions as that suited his veiled objective of embarrassing the government. However, while doing so, he hid details about how PMQs are organised, including his own role as an MP as that would have exposed his own failure.  As he omitted crucial details, his claim became incomplete and misleading.

Therefore, MP Khagaraj Adhikari’s second claim that the prime minister is solely responsible for holding (or not holding) PMQs is made without relevant context.