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Parliamentary standing committees

Topics covered:

  1. Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

Parliamentary standing committees

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Parliamentary standing committees- roles, need, functions and significance.

Context: Persistent absenteeism from meetings of department-related standing committees should cost MPs their spot on these parliamentary panels was a strong view that emerged during a meeting of chairpersons of the committees with Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu recently.

 

DRSC

Why have parliamentary committees?

  1. Committees are an instrument of Parliament for its own effective functioning. 
  2. Committees are platforms for threadbare discussion on a proposed law.
  3. The smaller cohort of lawmakers, assembled on the basis of the proportional strength of individual parties and interests and expertise of individual lawmakers, could have more open, intensive and better-informed discussions.
  4. Committee meetings are ‘closed door’ and members are not bound by party whips, which allows them the latitude for a more meaningful exchange of views as against discussions in full and open Houses where grandstanding and party positions invariably take precedence.
  5. Members of Parliament may have great acumen but they would require the assistance of experts in dealing with such situations. It is through committees that such expertise is drawn into lawmaking. They allow for more detailed discussions.
  6. This mechanism also enables parliamentarians to understand the executive processes closely. 

 

What are the types of committees?

Most committees are ‘standing’ as their existence is uninterrupted and usually reconstituted on an annual basis.

Some are ‘select’ committees formed for a specific purpose, for instance, to deliberate on a particular bill. Once the Bill is disposed of, that select committee ceases to exist. Some standing committees are departmentally related.

The three financial committees are the Public Accounts Committee, the Estimates Committee and the Committee on Public Undertakings.

 

Powers:

Parliamentary committees draw their authority from Article 105 (on privileges of Parliament members) and Article 118 (on Parliament’s authority to make rules for regulating its procedure and conduct of business).

 

How can these committees be made more effective?

These committees don’t have dedicated subject-wise research support available. Their work could be made more effective if the committees had full-time, sector-specific research staff.

The national commission to review the working of the Constitution has recommended that in order to strengthen the committee system, research support should be made available to them.

Besides, mandatory scrutiny of all bills by parliamentary committees would ensure better planning of legislative business.

 

Sources: the Hindu.