Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Role of Parliamentary Committees

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Parliament and State Legislatures—Structure, Functioning, Conduct of Business, Powers & Privileges and Issues Arising out of these

 

Source: TH

 Context: Parliamentary committees – panels made up of MPs – are constituted to delve deeper into matters of public concern and develop an expert opinion.

Parliamentary committees in India
MeaningA committee appointed/elected by the House or nominated by the Speaker of Lok Sabha (LS) or the Chairman of Rajya Sabha (RS) and has a secretariat provided by the LS/RS.

 

They work under the direction of the Speaker/Chairman, presenting their report to the House or to the Speaker/Chairman.

EvolutionIndividual committees have been formed since independence (Ex. The Ad Hoc Committee on the Citizenship Clause). A structured committee system was established in 1993.
Legal/ constitutional backingMentioned in the Constitution of India without providing specific provisions (regarding their composition, tenure, functions, etc).

 

These matters are dealt with by the rules of two Houses.

NeedIndian Parliament undertakes a large volume of information and scale of operations → not feasible to take up all issues on the floor of the House.

 

Continuous efforts are needed to make Parliament a dynamic, functional space.

 

Thus, committees are constituted to make Parliament a dynamic space and take up sector-specific concerns.

 

Behind every comment and every Bill introduced or taken up for discussion lies the ceaseless work of various committees.

 

‘It is not far from the truth to say that Congress in session is Congress on public exhibition, whilst Congress in Committee rooms is Congress at work’ (Woodrow Wilson)

ClassificationStanding Committees are permanent in nature, constituted every year or periodically. They may be further classified (based on the nature of the function) –

Financial Committees (Public Accounts Committee, etc)

Departmental-related Parliamentary Standing Committees

Committees to Inquire such as the Committee on Petitions, etc

 

Ad Hoc Committees are temporary (need-based).

Role Go into the details of a specific piece of legislation → analyse its potential impact on governance indicators →  then make their recommendations (not binding on the government).

 

Go into issues that are crucial for nation-building but don’t hold as much political significance. Take the example of defence shipyards.

 

Ensure an oversight on the executive → The government is required to table an ‘Action Taken’ report for the House to judge the progress made on the suggestions of the committee.

 

Enable day-to-day functioning of Parliament in session: For example, the Business Advisory Committee prepares the entire schedule of both Houses when Parliament is in session.

 

Enable efficient functioning of MPs: For example, the Committee on papers laid on the table of the House prepares each individual paper after careful deliberation, writing and screening.

Best practice

 

Work done on the Digital Data Protection Bill (The Puttaswamy judgement (2017) → Justice Srikrishna Committee → The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 → A Joint Parliamentary Committee → New Draft Digital Data Protection Bill, 2022)
Current challengesPolitical enmity and polarization

 

Public proceedings of the House do not allow for any deliberation, leaving the consensus

 

The declining trend of national legislation being subjected to expert scrutiny.

 

During the course of the 17th LS, only 14 Bills have been referred for the further examination so far.

 

25% of the Bills introduced were referred to committees in the 16th LS, as compared to 71% and 60% in the 15th and 14th LS respectively.

The road ahead

 

The Parliament could consider a compulsory referral (like the US) for the Bills that are tabled on the floor.

 

Arming these toothless tigers with more powers to help them ensure accountability from the executive.

 

It is essential for the parliamentary ecosystem in India to institutionalise such procedures and not allow political considerations to hasten law-making.

 

Insta Links:

An essential pit stop in parliamentary business

 

Mains Links:

Why do you think the committees are considered to be useful for parliamentary work? Discuss, in this context, the role of the Estimates Committee. (UPSC 2018)

 

Prelims Links: (UPSC 2018)

With reference to the Parliament of India, which of the following Parliamentary Committees scrutinizes and reports to the house whether the powers to make regulations, rules, sub-rules, by-laws, etc. conferred by the Constitution or delegated by the Parliament are being properly exercised by the Executive within the scope of such delegation?

 

    1. Committee on Government Assurances
    2. Committee on Subordinate Legislation
    3. Rules Committee
    4. Business Advisory Committee

 

Ans: 2