Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Departmental Standing committees

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Parliamentary committees.

Mains level : Paper 2- Department related committees

The article analyses the issue of tenure of the members of the Department related committees and suggest the changes to the rules about the tenure.

Context

  • There was speculation in the media that the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, M. Venkaiah Naidu, is keen on amending the rules to give them a fixed tenure of two years.

Why 2-year tenure?

  • According to the Rajya Sabha Rules, the term of office of the “members” of the committees shall not exceed one year.
  • Thus, it is the term of office of the members and not that of the committees per se that is one year.
  • The tenurial issue has to be looked at against the backdrop of the fact that the Rajya Sabha itself undergoes partial biennial renewal.
  • While Lok Sabha has a fixed tenure of five years, unless sooner dissolved.
  • Given these facts,2-year tenure suggestion is in consonance with the biennial partial reconstitution of the Rajya Sabha.

Need to rethink the tenurial prescription

  • In case of Lok Sabha, the major reconstitution takes place when a new Lok Sabha is elected, that is normally after five years.
  • Since Rajya Sabha elects new member every two years and the Lok Sabha after every five years, it is only once in 10 years that the requirement of major reshuffle of the Standing Committees in both the Houses is expected to coincide.
  • Given the different election schedules of the two Houses, there is perhaps no need to mandate the same term for the members of both the Houses.

Way forward

  • There are 24 Department-related Standing Committees, each with a membership of 31 (10 of the Rajya Sabha and 21 of the Lok Sabha).
  • They can accommodate 240 members of the Rajya Sabha and 504 members of the Lok Sabha.
  • Therefore, once a member is nominated to a committee, he should be allowed to continue till he retires or otherwise discontinues the membership in order that the committee is able to benefit from his experience and expertise.
  • The Standing Committees are permanent. Hence, there should be no difficulty if the terms of the members of the two Houses on these committees are different, in consonance with the tenure of the Houses themselves.
  • Given these facts, it would stand to reason if the tenure of Department-related Standing Committees is prescribed differently for the two Houses.
  • The Rules could also provide that casual vacancies may be filled in by the Presiding Officers.

Conclusion

While making changes to the rules the Chairman and the Speaker should consider the different tenure for the members of the two Houses on the Department-related committees.

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