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PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEES



The work done by the Parliament, in modern times, is not only varied but also considerable in volume. But very often, the time available at its disposal is limited. It cannot, therefore, give close consideration to all the legislative and other matters that come up before it. A substantial part of parliamentary work is, therefore, done by Parliamentary Committees. Both Houses of Parliament have a similar Committee structure, with marginal variations. Their appointment, terms of office, functions and procedure for conducting business are also more or less similar and are regulated as per rules made under Article 118(1) of the Constitution and Directions issued under rule 389 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha.
Broadly, Parliamentary Committees are of two types - Standing Committees and ad hoc Committees. The former are elected or appointed every year or periodically and their work goes on more or less on a continuous basis. The latter are appointed on an ad hoc basis as need arises and they cease to exist as soon as they have completed the task assigned to them.

Standing Committees
1. Financial Committees: 
Among the Standing Committees, the three Financial Committees – Committees on Estimates, Public Accounts and Public Undertakings – constitute a distinct group as they keep an unremitting vigil over governmental spending and performance. While members of the Rajya Sabha are associated with the Committees on Public Accounts and Public Undertakings, the members of the Committee on Estimates are drawn entirely from the Lok Sabha. The control exercised by these Committees is of a continuous nature. They gather information through questionnaires, memoranda from representative non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and knowledgeable individuals, on-the-spot studies of organizations and oral examination of official and non-official witnesses. Between them, the Financial Committees examine and report on a fairly large area of the activities of the Union Government.
These Committees have adequate procedures to ensure that their recommendations are given due consideration by the Government. The progress in the implementation of the recommendations as well as any unresolved differences between the Committees and the Government are set out in „Action Taken Reports‟ which are presented to the House from time to time.

2. Other Standing Committees: 
Other Standing Committees, in each House, divided in terms of their functions, are:
(i) Committees to inquire
(a) The Committee on Petitions examines petitions on bills and on matters of general public interest and also entertains representations on matters concerning subjects in the Union List; and
(b) The Committee of Privileges examines any questions of privilege referred to it by the House or the Speaker, Lok Sabha/Chairman, Rajya Sabha.
(ii) Committees to scrutinize:
(a) The Committee on Government Assurances keeps track of all the assurances, promises, undertakings etc. given by Ministers on the Floor of the House and pursues them till they are implemented;
(b) The Committee on Subordinate Legislation scrutinizes and reports to the House whether the powers to make regulations, rules sub-rules, bye-laws, etc., conferred by the Constitution or statutes are being properly exercised by the authorities so authorised; and
(c) The Committee on Papers Laid on the Table examines all papers laid on the Table of the House by Ministers, other than statutory notifications and orders which come within the purview of the Committee on Subordinate Legislation, to see whether there has been full compliance with the provisions of the Constitution, act, rule or regulation under which the paper has been laid.
(iii) Committees relating to the day-to-day Business of the House
(a) The Business Advisory Committee recommends the allocation of time for Government and other business to be brought before the House;
(b) The Committee on Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions of the Lok Sabha classifies and allocates time to bills introduced by Private Members, recommends allocation of time for discussion on private members‟ resolutions and examines Constitution amendment bills before their introduction by private members in the Lok Sabha. However, the Rajya Sabha does not have such a Committee. It is the Business Advisory Committee of that House which recommends the allocation of time for discussion on private members‟ bills and resolutions;
(c) The Rules Committee considers matters of procedure and conduct of business in the House and recommends amendments or additions to the rules; and
(d) The Committee of Absence of Members from the Sittings of the House of the Lok Sabha considers all applications from members for leave of absence from the sittings of the House. There is no such Committee in the Rajya Sabha. As such, applications from its members for leave of absence are considered by the House itself.
(iv) Committees concerned with the provision of facilities to members:
(a) The General Purposes Committee considers and advises the Speaker, Lok Sabha/Chairman, Rajya Sabha, on matters concerning the affairs of the House which do not appropriately fall within the purview of any other Parliamentary Committee, and
(b) The House Committee deals with the residential accommodation and other amenities for members.
(v) Joint Committees:
(a) The Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes on which members from both Houses serve, considers all matters relating to the welfare of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes which come within the purview of the Union Government and keeps a watch whether the constitutional safeguards in respect of these classes are properly implemented.
(b) Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Empowerment of Women consisting of members of both Houses was constituted in April 1997 with a view to securing among other things, status, dignity and equality for women in all fields.
(c) The Joint Committee on Salaries and Allowances of Members of Parliament, constituted under the Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament Act, 1954, apart from framing rules for regulating payment of salary, allowances and pension of members of Parliament, also frames rules in respect of amenities like medical, housing, telephone, postal, constituency and secretarial facilities.
(d) The Joint Committee on Offices of Profit examines the composition and character of the committees and other bodies appointed by the Union and State Governments and Union Territories‟ Administrations and recommends what offices ought to or ought not to disqualify a person from being a member of either House of Parliament; and
(e) The Library Committee consisting of members from both Houses considers matters concerning the Parliament Library.

3. Departmentally-Related Standing Committees
The work done by the Parliamentary Committees in enhancing Executive accountability is now not only recognized, but also appreciated. However, the existing system was found inadequate to cope with the multifarious demands on it as a result of the complexity of governmental functions. This situation led to a search for better methods, tools and techniques for the discharge of legislative responsibility by bringing about urgent reforms in the existing Committee System.

The first step in this direction was taken at the Conference of Presiding Officers of Legislative Bodies in India held in Bhubaneswar on 21 January 1978, when it was proposed to set up ad hoc Budget Committees for pre-voting scrutiny of Demands for Grants of all Ministries and Departments. The question of introducing a Subject Committee System was discussed in detail during the Third Regional Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Seminar held in New Delhi in January 1984 and again at the meeting of the Committee of Presiding Officers held in Thiruvananthapuram in June 1985. At the Presiding Officers Conference held in Lucknow on 27 October 1985, the Report on the setting up of ad hoc Budget Committees on pre-voting scrutiny of Demands for Grants of all Ministries was considered and adopted. Far-reaching proposals were made by the Rules Committee of the Eighth Lok Sabha at its sittings held on 30 March and 9 May 1989. To start with, it recommended the setting up of three Subject Committees, namely the Committee on Agriculture, the Committee on Science and Technology and the Committee on Environment and Forests. These Committees were constituted by the House w.e.f. 18 August 1989.

Encouraged by the performance of these three Committees, a comprehensive system of Departmentally-related Standing Committee was set up in 1993. The 17 Departmentally-related Standing Committees (6 serviced by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat and 11 by the Lok Sabha Secretariat) were constituted in April 1993, covering all Central Government Ministries/Departments.

The Standing Committees were re-restructured during the Fourteenth Lok Sabha in July 2004 whereby the number of DRSCs was increased from 17 to 24 (8 serviced by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat and 16 by the Lok Sabha Secretariat) as mentioned below in Part I and II of Statement 50 A, respectively) covering under their jurisdiction all the Ministries/Departments of the Government of India. Each of these Committees consists of 31 members – 21 from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha to be nominated by the Speaker, Lok Sabha, and the Chairman Rajya Sabha, respectively.

Institutional changes brought about in the form of the Departmentally-related Standing Committees (DRSCs) of Parliament have imparted a new dimension to the functioning of our Parliament.
The functions of each of the Departmentally Related Standing Committee are:
(a) to consider the Demands for Grants of the concerned Ministries/Departments and make a report on the same to the Houses. The report shall not suggest anything of the nature of cut motions.
(b) to examine such Bills pertaining to the concerned Ministries/Departments as are referred to the Committee by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha; or the Speaker, Lok Sabha, as the case may be and make report thereon;
(c) to consider annual reports of Ministries/Departments and make reports thereon; and
(d) to consider national basic long term policy documents presented to the Houses, if referred to the Committee by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha or the Speaker, Lok Sabha, as the case may be, and make reports thereon.

4. Ad hoc Committees
Ad hoc Committees may be broadly classified under two heads: (a) Committees which are constituted from time to time, either by the two Houses on a motion adopted in that behalf, or by the Speaker, Lok Sabha/Chairman, Rajya Sabha, to inquire into and report on specific subjects. Following are some such ad hoc Committees :-
i. Committee on Food Management in Parliament House Complex
ii. Committee on Installation of Portraits/Statues of National Leaders and
Parliamentarians in Parliament House Complex
iii. Committee on Security in Parliament Complex
iv. Committee on Ethics
v. Joint Parliamentary Committee on Wakf
vi. Committee on Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme
vii. Committee on Provision of Computers for MPs
viii. Railway Convention Committee

5. Inquiry Committees
Five Inquiry Committees have been constituted during the Fourteenth Lok Sabha which are as follows:
1. Committee to inquire into allegations of improper conduct on the part of some members - constituted under the Chairmanship of Shri Pawan Kumar Bansal on 14 December 2005 and presented report on 21 December 2005.
2. Committee to inquire into allegations of improper conduct on the part of some members in the matter of implementation of MPLAD Scheme - constituted under the Chairmanship of Shri V. Kishore Chandra S. Deo on 20 December 2005 and presented report on 13 March 2006.
3. Committee to inquire into misconduct of members of Lok Sabha regarding misuse of parliamentary privileges and facilities by them - constituted under the Chairmanship of Shri V. Kishore Chandra S. Deo on 16 May 2007 and presented report on 20 August 2007.
4. Committee to inquire into „Various Facets of Misconduct and Basic Attributes of Standards of conduct/behaviour expected of members‟ - constituted under the Chairmanship of Shri V. Kishore Chandra S. Deo on 16 May 2007 and presented report on 31 March 2008.
5. Committee to inquire into the complaint made by some members regarding alleged offer of money to them in connection with voting on the Motion of  Confidence (Fourteenth Lok Sabha) - constituted under the Chairmanship of Shri V. Kishore Chandra S. Deo on 26 July 2008 and presented report on November 2008.

Impact of Parliamentary Committees
Parliamentary Committees5 play a pivotal role in the smooth functioning and success of parliamentary democracy. These Committees have been rightly recognized as a powerful instrument not only in strengthening the entire parliamentary process but also in strengthening the accountability mechanisms. The Committees have been able to influence Government policies, programmes and the method of working of the Government to a very great extent; through the recommendations of these Committees, several legislations have been introduced in the Parliament and several pieces of delegated legislations have been formulated.
Work done by the Committees during the Fourteenth Lok Sabha
During the Fourteenth Lok Sabha, the 3 Financial Committees held as many as 263 sittings and submitted 141 reports. The various DRSCs held as many as 2093 sittings and presented 1045 reports. In total, Parliamentary Committees held 2356 sittings for 3512 hours and 37 minutes.

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