Why do you think the committees are considered to be useful for parliamentary work?  Discuss, in this context, the role of the Estimates Committee. (15 Marks)

Mentors Comments:
  • 1. Introduce with a line or two on parliamentary committees.
  • 2. Mention the significance of these bodies. Briefly touch upon their limitations.
  • 3. Focus specifically on the Estimates Committee, it’s role, and, significance.


The functions of Parliament are varied, complex and voluminous. It has neither time nor expertise to control to make a detailed scrutiny of all legislative measures and other matters. Therefore, it is assisted by a number of committees in discharge of its duties.

Eleven of the 22 Bills introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament were passed, which makes it a highly productive session after many years. But these Bills have been passed without scrutiny by parliamentary standing committees, their purpose being to enable detailed consideration of a piece of legislation.

Why have parliamentary committees?

  1. Parliament is the embodiment of the people’s will. 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.
  6. Executive accountability to the legislature is enforced through questions in Parliament also, which are answered by ministers. However, department standing committees go one step further and hear from senior officials of the government in a closed setting, allowing for more detailed discussions.
  7. This mechanism also enables parliamentarians to understand the executive processes closely.

Role of the Estimates Committee

  • Estimates Committee compromises of 30 members solely from Lok Sabha.
  • Its main agenda is to examine the estimates included in the budget and suggest economies in public expenditure.
  • It suggests alternative policies in order to bring about the efficiency and economy in administration.
  • It brings to the notice of the Parliament, the ineffectiveness of the policy and the need for changes in policy.

However, the effectiveness of the role of the committee is limited by the followings-

  • The power to examine the budget estimates is not an absolute one. The committee can only examine the budget after it is voted upon and not before that.
  • Nowhere the power to question the policies of the Parliament has been conferred upon the committee.
  • All the recommendations made by the committee are advisory in nature and stand non-binding for the parliament.
  • In a year, the committee does not examine the budgets of all the ministries/departments. It chooses a few departments whose budget it wants to examine. Therefore, budget estimates of all the ministries/departments are examined over a period of years and not in one year.

Way Forward:

  1. Their work could be made more effective if the committees had full-time, sector-specific research staff.
  2. 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.
  3. Currently, the rules of Parliament don’t require every bill to be referred to a parliamentary committee for scrutiny. While this allows the government greater flexibility and the ability to speed up legislative business, it comes at the cost of ineffective scrutiny by the highest law-making body. Mandatory scrutiny of all bills by parliamentary committees would ensure better planning of legislative business.
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