Parliamentary Committees

There are different types of parliamentary committees which can be classified as follows:

  • Consultative committees for different ministries which provide a forum for discussion on the policies and the working of the ministry.
  • The Select or Joint select Committees on individual bills for investigation or inquiry.
  • The Parliament may appoint a committee for specific purpose of studying a particular subject matter for example, a committee for the welfare of Scheduled caste and scheduled tribes.

There are committees to inquire into the various matters like the Committee of Petitions and the Committee of Privileges, the Committee to Scrutinize or the Committee of Government assurance and Committee on Subordinate Legislation. There are also committees of administrative character relating to the business of House such as Committee on absence of Members from the sittings of the House, Business Advisory Committee and Rules Committee. A few committees are concerned with the facilities of a Member of Parliament like the House Committee and Library committee. However, one of the most important committees include the financial committees such as Estimates committee, Public Accounts Committee and the Committee on Public Undertakings.

1. Public Accounts Committee

The function of this committee is to examine the annual accounts of the Government and the accounts showing appropriation of different sums granted by the Lok Sabha. The committee in particular scrutinizes the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (C.A.G.) in regard to the appropriation accounts of the Government. The committee has to satisfy itself that the sum expanded was spent on the services or purposes for which it was made available or for which it was charged. It must also see that the expenditure is according to the authorization and if any re-appropriation was done it was made by a competent authority. The committee may also look into the Profit and Loss Accounts and Balance Sheets of Government corporations, the accounts of different projects and institutions and consider the report of the C.A.G. in regard to such accounts. The Committee also peruses the report of the C.A.G. in regard to autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies.

Constitution

The committee consists of not more than 22 members, 15 of which are drawn from the Lok Sabha. They are elected on the basis of the principle of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote. 7 members nominated by Rajya Sabha are co-opted in the committee. No Minister may be elected to the committee. If a member elected to committee subsequently becomes a Minister then he will cease to be a member from the date of his appointment. The term of the members is not more that one year. During the past year a convention has developed to appoint a member from the opposition benches as the Chairman of the Committee. The Chairman is generally re-elected for another year. This committee came into lime light when report of the C.A.G. pertaining to purchases of Bofors Guns was discussed.

2. The Estimate Committee

The Government of the day formulates the economic policies and present demands to the Parliament for carrying out the policies. In order to scrutinize the expenditure proposed by the Government in an informal atmosphere disregarding party lines, an Estimate Committee is constituted after the budget is presented before the Lok Sabha. This committee of the Lok Sabha examines the estimates in order to make suggestion in regard to— a. economy and improvement in organizational efficiency or administrative reform consistent with policies underlying the estimates. b. suggest alternative policies for bringing efficiency and economy in administration. c. examine whether the money is well laid out within the limits of the policy. d. to suggest the form in which the estimates are to be presented to the Parliament. The committee functions would not include a Government undertaking which has been referred to the Committee on Public Undertakings.

IMPORTANCE OF STANDING COMMITTEE

They promote intelligent participation of the members in the functioning of the executive. The members come close enough to the Department to understand and appreciate the problems and difficulties that the Department has to face. They tend to enhance the effectiveness of Parliamentary control. They are able to go deep into the demands and discuss them in detail. They can effect better examination of the Annual Report and assess the performance of the ministry. At the same time it is ensured that the Report and assess the performance of the ministry. At the same time it is ensured that the reports are submitted within the time fixed for it and that there is no interference in the day-to-day administration of the Department. In this way the demands of each ministry are subjected to discussion by a committee. Prior to the adoption of this system the demands for 3 or 4 ministries only could be discussed in the Lok Sabha. The rest were guillotined for want of time.

Constitution

The committee shall not have more than 30 members. The members are elected by proportional representation by means of single transferable vote. A Minister cannot be elected to the committee and if after election a person is appointed a Minster, he ceases to be a member of the committee. The members are appointed for a period not exceeding one year. The report of the committees is not debated in the House. The committee keeps on working through out the year and places its views before the House. The demand for grants made by the Government do not wait for the report of the Estimates committee. The Estimates Committee makes useful suggestion and checks Government’s extravagance in making demands for the next financial year.

3. Committee on Public Undertakings

The functions of the committee are, — (a) to examine the reports and accounts of the Public Undertakings specified in the Rules of the Lok Sabha e.g. Damador Valley Corporation etc. (b) to examine the reports of the C.A.G. in regard to a Government undertaking. (c) to examine whether the Government undertakings are being run according to appropriate mercantile principles and prudent commercial norms. (d) To examine other matters which may be referred by the Speaker to the Committee.

Constitution

The Committee consists of more than 22 members. 15 are elected by the Lok Sabha in accordance with the principle of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote. 7 members nominated by Rajya Sabha are co-opted in the Committee. As in the case of other committees a minister is not qualified to be elected to the committee. A member, appointed as a minister, ceases to be a member. The term of the members does not exceed one year.

4. Committee on Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes

The Committee’s functions are, –

(a) to consider the reports submitted by the Commissioner for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST).

(b) to report on the action taken by the Union government on the measures proposed by the Committee.

(c) to examine the representation of SC and ST in the services and posts under the Union to ensure the implementation of Art. 335.

(d) To review the working of the welfare programmes for the SC and ST in the Union Territories.

(e) To consider any other matter which the committee may deem fit or which may be specially referred to it by the Speaker.

Constitution

The committee consists of not more than 30 members. 20 are elected by the Lok Sabha in accordance with the principle of proportional representation by single transferable vote. 10 members nominated by the Rajya Sabha are co-opted in the committee. Like the committees a Minister is barred from becoming a member. If a person elected as member is appointed as a Minister he ceases to be a member. The term of office of the members may not exceed one year.

5. Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committees.

These are 17 Departmental Standing Committees. Each committee is related to one or more Departments. The large Departments like Defence and Railways have their own standing committees while in some cases two or more Departments are within the purview of one committee. The functions of the Committees are-

(a) To consider the demands for grants of the related Ministries/Departments and report to the grants. The report shall not suggest any cuts.

(b) To examine Bills pertaining to the related Ministries/Departments referred to the committee by the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha or the Speaker.

(c) To consider the annual reports of the Ministries/Departments and report thereon.

(d) To consider national basic long-term policy documents presented to the Houses and repot on them (if referred by the Chairman or the Speaker). The Committees are expressly prohibited from considering matters of day-to-day administration.

Constitution

Each committee consists of not more than 45 members. 30 members are nominated by the Speaker from the Lok Sabha and 15 are nominated by the Chairman from the Rajya Sabha. A member who is a minister shall not be nominated or continue as a member. The Chairman of 6 of these committees viz. Commerce, Home Affairs, Human Resources Development, Industry, Science and Technology and Transport and tourism are appointed by the Chairman. Chairman of the remaining 11 committees are appointed by the Speaker.

Apart from the department-related standing committees in which both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha participate the Rajya Sabha has some exclusive committees. They are—

(1) Committee on Subordinate Legislation

(2) Committee on Government Assurances

(3) Committee on Papers Laid on the Table

(4) Rules Committee

(5) House Committee; and

(6) General Purpose Committee.

6. The Committee on Subordinate Legislation

The committee scrutinizes each rule, regulation, bye-law etc. framed in pursuance of the Constitution or the legislative functions delegated by Parliament to a subordinate authority and which is required to be laid before Parliament.

Constitution

The committee consists of 15 members who are nominated by the Chairman. Casual vacancies are filled by the Chairman. The quorum is five members. The Committee holds office until a new Committee is constituted.

DEPARTMENTAL STANDING COMMITTEES

In 1993, 17 departmentally related standing committees were created in the Parliament to exercise control over the Executive, particularly financial control. These 17 standing committees cover under their jurisdiction, all the ministeries/departments of the Central government. Each standing committee consists of 45 members (30 from the Lok Sabha and 15 from the Rajya Sabha). The members of the Lok Sabha are nominated by the Speaker from amongst its members, while the members of the Rajya Sabha are nominated by the Chair-man from amongst its members. A minister cannot be nominated as 11 member of the committee. The term of office of the members is one year. The chairman of the II, committees are appointed by the Speaker, while the chairman of the remaining 6 committees are appointed by the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha from amongst the members of the committee. Each party is proportionately represented in these committees.

The functions of each of the standing committees are: 1. To consider the demands for grants of the concerned ministries/departments be-fore they are discussed and voted in the Lok Sabha. Its report should not suggest anything of the nature of cut motions. 2. To examine bills pertaining to the concerned ministries/departments. 3. To consider annual reports of ministries/departments. 4. To consider national basic long-term policy documents presented to the Houses. The 17 standing committees and the ministries/departments placed under their jurisdiction are :

MOTIONS AND RESOLUTIONS

Motion A Motion is a procedural Parliamentary device by which the functions of the House are sought to be achieved. In simple words, it sets the House in motion. A motion generally suggests a course of action before the House. Resolution A resolution is a motion which is complete in itself. A resolution generally expresses an opinion and so has a persuasive value. The enacting clause of a Bill is worded as a resolution “Be it enacted by the Parliament…when this is passed the Bill attains the character of an Act.”

1. Business Advisory Committee

It regulates the programme and timetable of the House. It allocates time for the transaction of legislative and other business brought be-fore the House by the government. The Lok Sabha committee consists of 15 members including the Speaker as its chairman. In the Rajya Sabha, it has 11 members including the Chairman as its ex-officio chairman.

2. Committee on Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions

It classifies the bills and allocates time for the discussion of bills and resolutions introduced by private members (other than ministers). This is a special committee of the Lok Sabha and consists of 15 members including the Deputy Speaker as its chairman. The Rajya Sabha does not have such a committee. The same function in the Rajya Sabha is performed by the business advisory committee of that House.

3. Committee on Government Assurances

It examines the assurances, promises and undertakings given by ministers from time to time on the floor of the House and reports on the extent to which they have been implemented. In the Lok Sabha, it consists of 15 members and in the Rajya Sabha, it consists of 10 members. It was constituted in 1953.

4. Committee on Subordinate Legislation

It examines and reports to the House whether the powers to make regulations, rules, sub-rules and bye-laws delegated by the Parliament or conferred by the Constitution to the Executive are being properly exercised by it. In both the Houses, the committee consists of 15 members. It was constituted in 1953.

5. Committee on Welfare of SCs and STs

It consists of 30 members (20 from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha). Its functions are: (i) to consider the reports of the National Com-mission for the SCs and STs; (ii) to examine all matters relating to the welfare of SCs and STs like implementation of constitutional and statutory safeguards, working of welfare programmes, etc.

6. Committee on Absence of Members

It considers all applications from members for leave of absence from the sittings of the House; and examines the cases of members who had been absent for a period of 60 days or more without permission. It is a special committee of the Lok Sabha and consists of 15 members. There is no such committee in the Rajya Sabha and all such matters are dealt by the House itself.

7. Rules Committee

It considers the matters of procedure and conduct of business in the House and recommends necessary amendments, or additions to the Rules of the House. The Lok Sabha committee consists of 15 members including the Speaker as its ex-officio chairman. In Rajya Sabha, it consists of 16 members including the Chairman as its ex-officio chairman.

8. General Purposes Committee

It considers and advises on matters concerning affairs of the House, which do not fall within the jurisdiction of any other parliamentary committee. In each House, the committee consists of the presiding officer (Speaker/ Chairman) as its ex-officio chairman, Deputy Speaker (Deputy Chairman in the case of Rajya Sabha), members of panel of chairpersons (panel of vice-chairpersons in the case of Rajya Sabha), chairpersons of all the departmental standing committees of the House, leaders of recognised parties and groups in the House and such other members as nominated by the presiding officer.

9. Committee of Privileges

Its functions are semi-judicial in nature. It examines the cases of breach of privileges of the House and its members and recommends appropriate action. The Lok Sabha committee has 15 members, while the Rajya Sabha committee has 10 members.

10. Joint Committee on Salaries and Allowances of Members

It was constituted under the Salary, Allowances, and Pension of Members of Parliament Act, 1954. It consists of 15 members (10 from Lok Sabha and 5 from Rajya Sabha). It frames rules for regulating the payment of salary, allowances, and pension to members of Parliament.

11. House Committee

It deals with residential accommodation of members and other amenities like food, medical aid, etc. accorded to them in their houses and hostels in Delhi. Both the Houses have their respective House committee. In the Lok Sabha, it consists of 12 members.

12. Committee on Petitions

It examines petitions on bills and on matters of general public importance. It also entertains representations from individuals and associations on matters pertaining to Union subjects. The Lok Sabha committee consists of 15 members, while the Rajya Sabha committee consists of 10 members.

13. Library Committee

It considers all matters relating to the library of Parliament and assists the members in utilizing the library services. It consists of nine members (six from Lok Sabha and three from Rajya Sabha).

14. Ethics Committee

It was constituted in Rajya Sabha in 1997 and in Lok Sabha in 2000. It enforces the code of conduct of members of Parliament. It examines the cases of misconduct and recommend:; appropriate action. Thus, it is engaged in maintaining discipline and decorum in Parliament.

15. Committee on Empowerment of Women

It was constituted in 1997 and consists of 30 members & (20 from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha). It considers the reports of the National Commission for Women and examines the measures taken by the Union government to secure status, dignity and equality for women in all fields.

16. Committee on Papers Laid on the Table

It was constituted in 1975. The Lok Sabha Committee has 15 members, while the Rajya Sabha Committee has 10 members. It examines all papers laid on the table of the House by ministers to see whether they comply with provisions of the Constitution, Act or Rule. It does not examine statutory notifications and orders that fall under the jurisdiction of the Committee on Subordinate Legislation.

17. Joint Committee on Offices of Profit

It examines the composition and character of committees and other bodies appointed by the Central, state and union territory governments and recommends whether persons holding these offices should be disqualified from being elected as members of Parliament or not. It consists of 15 members (10 from Lok Sabha and 5 from Rajya Sabha).

 

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