Parliamentary Committees

The Parliament is too unwieldy a body to deliberate effectively the issues that come up before it. The functions of the Parliament are varied, complex and voluminous. Moreover, it has neither the adequate time nor necessary expertise to make a detailed scrutiny of all legislative measures and other matters. Therefore, it is assisted by a number of committees in the discharge of its duties. The Constitution of India makes a mention of these committees at different places, but without making any specific provisions regarding their composition, tenure, functions, etc. All these matters are dealt by the rules of two Houses.

A committee is called a parliamentary committee if it meets the following requirements :
  • appointed by the house or nominated by the speaker or chairman.
  • work under the direction of the speaker.
  • It should present its report to the house or to the speaker or chairman.
  • It should have a secretariat provided by the lok sabha or rajya sabha.
The constitution of India makes a mention of these committees at different places, but without making any specific provisions regarding their composition, tenure, functions etc. all these matters are dealt by the rules of two houses.
Consultative Committee: A committee is called a Consultative committee or it is different from Parliamentary committee in the following ways:
  • They consists members from both the houses of parliament.
  • Ministers or ministers of state in charge can be chairman of the committee concerned with the ministry of that minister
  • They act as a bridge between members of parliament and ministers on government policies and effective governance.
  • These are constituted by ministry of parliamentary affairs. It takes responsibility of everything of the committee
  • The membership of this committee is voluntary and may vary. The maximum members may be 30 and minimum is 10.
  • They are constituted on commencement of new lok sabha and dissolved with end of term of lok sabha.
Parliamentary committees are of two types based on nature of functions: standing – permanent in nature – ad hoc – temporary in nature.
Standing Committees
1. Financial committees: They are three in number :

a. Public Accounts Committee:

  • it came into existence from the provisions of government of India act 1919.
  • consists of 15 members elected by the Lok Sabha and 7 members of the Rajya Sabha
  • A Minister is not eligible for election to this Committee.
  • Term : one year
  • Chairman : appointed by the speaker and chairman is invariably from opposition.

Purpose

  • to ascertain whether the money granted by Parliament has been spent by Government “within the scope of the Demand”.
  • The Appropriation Accounts of the Government of India and the Audit Reports presented by the Comptroller and Auditor General mainly form the basis for the examination of the Committee.
  • Cases involving losses, nugatory expenditure and financial irregularities come in for severe criticism by the Committee.
  • The Committee is not concerned with questions of policy. It is concerned only with the execution of the policy laid down by Parliament and its results.
  • In fulfilling these functions, CAG assists the committee.

Limitations: It is not an executive body and its decisions are advisory in nature.

b. Estimates committee:

  • consists of 30 members who are elected by the Lok Sabha every year from amongst its members.
  • A Minister is not eligible for election to this Committee.
  • Term : one year.
  • Chairman : appointed by speaker and he is invariably from ruling party.

Purpose

  • to report what economies, improvements in organization, efficiency, or administrative reform, consistent with the policy underlying the estimates may be effected and to suggest alternative policies in order to bring about efficiency and economy in administration.
  • From time to time the Committee selects such of the estimates pertaining to a Ministry or a group of Ministries or the statutory and other Government bodies as may seem fit to the Committee.
  • The Committee also examines matters of special interest which may arise or come to light in the course of its work or which is specifically referred to it by the House or the Speaker.

Limitations: it post mortems reports after laid in parliament and decisions are advisory and importantly they do not have assistance from CAG.

c. Public undertakings:

  • created on the recommendation of Krishna Menon committee.
  • consists of 15 members elected by the Lok Sabha and 7 members of Rajya Sabha
  • Minister is not eligible for election to this Committee
  • Term : one year
  • Chairman : appointed from members of lok sabha only and he is appointed by speaker.
Purpose / Functions
  • to examine the reports and accounts of Public Undertakings;
  • to examine the reports, if any, of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the Public Undertakings;
  • to examine in the context of the autonomy and efficiency of the Public Undertakings whether the affairs of the Public Undertakings are being managed in accordance with sound business principles and prudent commercial practices; and
  • such other functions vested in the Committee on Public Accounts and the Committee on Estimates in relation to the Public Undertakings as are not covered by clauses (a), (b) and (c) above and as may be allotted to the Committee by the Speaker from time to time.
The Committee does not, however, examine matters of major Government policy and matters of day-to-day administration of the Undertakings.
Limitations: its recommendations are advisory in nature and not binding.
Note: the members of all the above committees are elected according to the principle of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote. All parties are squarely represented.
2. Departmental Standing Committees: A full-fledged system of 17 Departmentally Related Standing Committees came into being in April, 1993. These Committees cover under their jurisdiction all the Ministries/ Departments of the Government of India. These Committees are as under :
1. Committee on Commerce
2. Committee on Home Affairs
3. Committee on Human Resource Development
4. Committee on Industry
5. Committee on Science & Technology,Environment & Forests
6. Committee on Transport, Culture and Tourism
7. Committee on Agriculture
8. Committee on Information Technology
9. Committee on Defense
10. Committee on Energy
11. Committee on External Affairs
12. Committee on Finance
13. Committee on Food, Civil Supplies and Public Distribution
14. Committee on Labor and Welfare
15. Committee on Petroleum & Chemicals
16. Committee on Railways
17. Committee on Urban and Rural Development
Out of the 17 Committees, 6 Committees (1 to 6) are serviced by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat and 11 Committees (7 to 17) by the Lok Sabha Secretariat.
  • Each of these Standing Committees consists of not more than 45 members—30 to be nominated by the Speaker from amongst the members of Lok Sabha and 15 to be nominated by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha from amongst the members of Rajya Sabha.
  • A Minister is not eligible to be nominated to these Committees.
  • The term of members of these Committees is one year.
  • With reference to the Ministries/Departments under their purview, the functions of these committees are:
  1. Consideration of Demands for Grants.
  2. Examination of Bills referred to by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha or the Speaker, Lok Sabha as the case may be.
  3. Consideration of Annual Reports.
  4. Consideration of national basic long term policy documents presented to the House and referred to the Committee by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha or the Speaker, Lok Sabha, as the case may be.

These Committees do not consider matters of day-to-day administration of the concerned Ministries/Departments. The newly constituted departmentally related Standing Committee System is a path-breaking endeavor of the Parliamentary surveillance over administration. With the emphasis of their functioning to concentrate on long-term plans, policies and the philosophies guiding the working of the Executive, these Committees will be in a very privileged position to provide necessary direction, guidance and inputs for broad policy formulations and in achievement of the long-term national perspective by the Executive.

3. Committees to Inquire:

  1. Committee on petitions:
    • The Committee consists of 15 members in lok sabha and 10 members in Rajya sabha.
    • A Minister is not nominated to this Committee.
    • The function of the Committee is to consider and report on petitions presented to the House. Besides, it also considers representations from individuals and associations, etc. on subjects which are not covered by the rules relating to petitions and gives directions for their disposal.
  2. Committee on privileges:
    • The Committee consists of 15 members in lok sabha and 10 members in Rajya sabha.
    • The function is to examine every question involving breach of privilege of the House or of the members of any Committee thereof referred to it by the House or by the Speaker.
    • It determines with reference to the facts of each case whether a breach of privilege is involved and makes suitable recommendations in its report.
  3. Ethics committee:
    • It is engaged in maintaining discipline and decorum in parliament.
    • It examines the cases of misconduct and recommends appropriate action.
4. Committees to scrutinize and control :
  1. Committee on government assurances:
    • The Committee consists of 15 members in lok sabha and 10 members in Rajya sabha.
    • A Minister is not nominated to this Committee.
    • While replying to questions in the House or during discussions on Bills, Resolutions, Motions etc., Ministers at times give assurances or undertakings either to consider a matter or to take action or to furnish the House further information later. The functions of this Committee are to scrutinize the assurances, promises, undertakings etc. given by Ministers from time to time and to report to Lok Sabha on the extent to which such assurances etc. have been implemented and to see whether such implementation has taken place within the minimum time necessary for the purpose.
  2. Committee on subordinate legislation:
    • in both the houses, the committee has 15 members.
    • A Minister is not nominated to this Committee.
    • The Committee scrutinizes and reports to the House whether the powers to make regulations, rules, and sub-rules, by-laws etc. conferred by the Constitution or delegated by Parliament are being properly exercised by the executive within the scope of such delegation.
  3. Committee on papers laid on the table:
    • The Committee consists of 15 members in lok sabha and 10 members in Rajya sabha.
    •  Its function is to examine all papers laid on the Table of the House by Ministers (other than those which fall within the purview of the Committee on Subordinate Legislation or any other Parliamentary Committee) and to report to the House—
      (a) whether there has been compliance of the provisions of the Constitution, Act, rule or regulation under which the paper has been laid,
      (b) whether there has been any unreasonable delay in laying the paper,
      (c) if there has been such delay, whether a  statement explaining the reasons for delay has been laid on the Table of the House and whether those reasons are satisfactory,
      (d) whether both the Hindi and English versions of the paper have been laid on the Table,
      (e) whether a statement explaining the reasons for not laying the  Hindi version has been given and whether such reasons are satisfactory,
      (f) such other functions in respect of the papers laid on the Table as may be assigned to it by the Speaker from time to time.
  4. Committee on welfare of SCs and STs:
    • consists of 30 members – 20 from lok sabha and 10 from Rajya sabha.
    • Term :one year.
    • A Minister is not eligible for election to this Committee.
    • The main functions of the Committee are to consider all matters concerning the welfare of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, falling within the purview of the Union Government and the Union Territories, to consider the reports submitted by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and to examine the measures taken by the Union Government to secure due representation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in services and posts under its control.
  5. Committee on empowerment of women:
    • consists of 30 members – 20 from lok sabha and 10 from Rajya sabha.
    • This Committee came into being on 29th April, 1997, as a consequence of identical Resolutions adopted by both the Houses of Parliament on the occasion of International Women’s’ Day on 8th March, 1996.
    • The term of the Committee is of one year.
    • The Committee has been primarily mandated with the task of reviewing and monitoring the measures taken by the Union Government in the direction of securing for women equality, status and dignity in all matters.
    • The Committee would also suggest necessary correctives for improving the status/condition of women in respect of matters within the purview of the Union Government.
    • Besides, another important function of the Committee is to examine the measures taken by the Union Government for comprehensive education and adequate representation of women in Legislative bodies/services and other fields.
    • The Committee would also consider the report of the National Commission for Women.
    • The Committee may also examine such other matters as may seem fit to them or are specifically referred to them by the Lok Sabha or the Speaker and the Rajya Sabha or the Chairman, Rajya Sabha.
  6. Joint committee on offices of profit:
    • This Committee consists of 15 members. Ten members are elected from Lok Sabha and five from Rajya Sabha.
    • The Committee is constituted for the duration of each Lok Sabha.
    • The main functions of the Committee are to examine the composition and character of the Committees appointed by the Central and State  Governments and to recommend what offices should disqualify and what offices should not disqualify a person for being chosen as, and for being, a member of either House of Parliament under article 102 of the Constitution.
5.Committees relating to the day to day business of the house:
  1. Business advisory committee:
    • The Business Advisory Committee of Lok Sabha consists of 15 members including the Speaker who is the ex-officio Chairman. In the Rajya Sabha, it has 11 members including the chairman as its ex – officio chairman.
    • The members are nominated by the Speaker.
    • Almost all sections of the House are represented on the Committee as per the respective strength of parties in the House.
    • The function of the Committee is to recommend the time that should be allotted for the discussion of such Government legislative and other business as the Speaker, in consultation with the Leader of the House, may direct to be referred to the Committee.
    • The Committee, on its own initiative, may also recommend to the Government to bring forward particular subjects for discussion in the House and recommend allocation of time for such discussions.
    • The decisions reached by the Committee are always unanimous in character and representative of the collective view of the House.
    • The Committee generally meets at the beginning of each Session and thereafter as and when necessary.
  2. Committee on private members’ bills and resolutions:
    • This Committee consists of 15 members and the Deputy Speaker is its Chairman when nominated as a member of the Committee.
    • The Committee is nominated by the Speaker.
    • The functions of the Committee are to allot time to Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions, to examine Private Members’ Bills seeking to amend the Constitution before their introduction in Lok Sabha, to examine all Private Members’ Bills after they are introduced and before they are taken up for consideration in the House and to classify them according to their nature,  urgency and importance into two categories namely, category A and category B and also to examine such Private Members’ Bills where the legislative competence of the House is challenged.
    • The Committee, thus, performs the same function in relation to Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions as the Business Advisory Committee does in regard to Government Business.
    • The Committee holds office for a term not exceeding one year.
    • There is no such committee in Rajya Sabha.
  3. Rules committee:
    • The Rules Committee consists of 15 members including the Speaker who is the ex-officio Chairman of the Committee in lok sabha. In Rajya Sabha it has 16 members including the chairman as its ex officio chairman.
    • The members are nominated by the Speaker.
    • The Committee considers matters of procedure and conduct of business in the House and recommends any amendments or additions to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha that are considered necessary.
  4. Committee on absence members:
    • The Committee consists of 15 members who hold office for one year.
    • The members are nominated by the Speaker.
    • This Committee considers all applications from members for leave of absence from the sittings of the House and examines every case where a member has been absent for a period of 60 days or more, without permission, from the sittings of the House.
    • In its report it makes recommendations with respect to each case as to whether the absence should be condoned or leave applied granted or whether the circumstances of the case justify that the House should declare the seat of the member vacant.
    • There is no such committee in Rajya Sabha.
6.Housekeeping committees: 
  1. General purpose committee: this committee advises on matters which do not fall under any of the above said committees. In each house, speaker or chairman acts as ex officio chairman of the committee and they nominate members from the respective houses.
  2. House committee: this committee looks after hospitality and accommodation of members and hostels in Delhi.
  3. Library committee: this committee makes members make the use of library services. It has 9 members – 6 from lok sabha and 3 from Rajya Sabha.
  4. Joint committee on salaries and allowances: this committee looks after salaries, pensions etc. matters related to members. It has 15 members – 10 from lok sabha and 5 from Rajya sabha.
Ad hoc committees: There are two types of them: Inquiry and Advisory committees.
  1. Inquiry committee: they are constituted from time to time, either by the two houses on a motion adopted in that behalf or by the speaker or chairman to inquire into and report on specific subjects.
  2. Advisory committee: they include select or joint committees on bills which are appointed to consider and report on particular bills. The procedure to be followed by this committee is laid down in rules of procedure and directions of speaker. In this way they are from different from other ad hoc committees.
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