From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Various parliamentary committees and their functions
Mains level : Paper 2- Importance of scrutiny of the Bills at committee level
The article explains in detail the functioning of committees in the scrutiny of the Bills and underscores the importance of scrutiny of the Bills at the committee levels.
Growing trend of bypassing the scrutiny at committee level
- Data show that very few Bills are referred to the Parliamentary Committees now.
- Ministers are generally reluctant to send their Bills to the committees because they are in a hurry to pass them.
- They often request the Presiding Officers not to refer their Bills to the committees.
- But the Presiding Officers are required to exercise their independent judgment in the matter and decide the issue.
- They need to keep in mind the fact that the Bills which the government brings before the Houses often have serious shortcomings.
Why scrutiny by the House committee matters
- The demand for the repeal of the laws passed by Parliament only recently essentially points to a serious lapse in the management of the legislative work in Parliament.
- Parliament has put in place a large machinery of committees to scrutinise the Bills which are brought before it by the government as a part of its legislative programme.
- Rules of the Houses leave it to the Speaker or the Chairman to refer the Bills to the Standing Committees for a detailed scrutiny thereof.
- After such scrutiny, the committees send their reports containing their recommendations on improvements to be made in the Bills to the Houses.
- While undertaking such scrutiny, the committees invite various stakeholders to place their views before them.
- Only after elaborate consultation do the committees formulate their views and recommendations.
- Free India’s Parliament established a vast network of committees to undertake scrutiny of various aspects of governance including the Bills.
- Prior to the formation of Standing Committees, the Indian Parliament used to appoint select committees, joint select committees, etc. for detailed scrutiny of important legislative proposals of the government.
- With the formation of standing committees, the occasions for appointing select or joint select committees are few.
Example of the Bills made better by suggestions of committe
- The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Bill was introduced in 1999 in the Lok Sabha and was immediately referred to a joint committee of both Houses.
- This Bill was meant to develop new varieties of plants and protect the rights of farmers and breeders.
- The committee completed its work in eight months and made many improvements by way of bringing greater clarity into various terms and concepts.
- The Seeds Bill, 2004 was referred to the Standing Committee on Agriculture which obtained the views from diverse sources.
- Through the process of consultation with a wide range of experts and research organisations and farmers, the committee made significant improvements in the Bill; as a result, there was a better law on seeds.
- It was the same case with the Companies (Amendment) Bill, the Information Technology Bill, and the Goods and Services Tax Bill.
- The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill which was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2011, which was referred to the Committee, was again referred to a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha when it was transmitted to that House after being passed by the Lok Sabha.
- Thus, this Bill underwent double security by two committees of Parliament.
Our Parliamentary Committees have a tradition of working in a non-party manner. The reports of these Committees are based on consensus. It may be a bit difficult for people to believe that the instrumentalities of Parliament could rise above parties. But that is how they function.