Parliament – Sessions, Procedures, Motions, Committees etc

Roles, functions and limitations of Parliamentary Committees

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Parliamentary committees and its types

Mains level : Parliamentary committees and thier various functions

The government pushed through two crucial agriculture Bills in Rajya Sabha, rejecting Opposition demands to refer them to a Select Committee of Rajya Sabha.

Try this PYQ:

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, bylaws, etc. conferred by the Constitution or delegated by the Parliament are being properly exercised by the Executive within the scope of such delegation?(CSP 2018)

(a) Committee on Government Assurances

(b) Committee on Subordinate Legislation

(c) Rules Committee

(d) Business Advisory Committee

What is a Parliamentary Committee?

  • It means a Committee which is appointed or elected by the House or nominated by the Speaker and which works under the direction of the Speaker and presents its report to the House or to the Speaker and the Secretariat for which is provided by the Lok Sabha Secretariat.

By their nature, Parliamentary Committees are of two kinds: Standing Committees and Ad hoc Committees.

  1. Standing Committees are permanent and regular committees which are constituted from time to time in pursuance of the provisions of an Act of Parliament or Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha. The work of these Committees is of continuous nature. The Financial Committees, DRSCs and some other Committees come under the category of Standing Committees.
  2. Ad hoc Committees are appointed for a specific purpose and they cease to exist when they finish the task assigned to them and submit a report. The principal Ad hoc Committees are the Select and Joint Committees on Bills. Railway Convention Committee, Joint Committee on Food Management in Parliament House Complex etc also come under the category of ad hoc Committees.

Why need Parliamentary Committee?

  • Parliament scrutinizes legislative proposals (Bills) in two ways. The first is by discussing it on the floor of the two Houses.
  • This is a legislative requirement; all Bills have to be taken up for debate.
  • The time spent debating the bills can vary. They can be passed in a matter of minutes, or debate and voting on them can run late into the night.
  • Since Parliament meets for 70 to 80 days in a year, there is not enough time to discuss every Bill in detail on the floor of the House.

Its role in the passage of a Bill

  • The debate in the house is mostly political and does not go into the technical details of a legislative proposal.
  • The second mechanism is by referring a Bill to a parliamentary committee. It takes care of the legislative infirmity of debate on the floor of the House.
  • However, referring to Bills to parliamentary committees is not mandatory.

And what is a Select Committee?

  • India’s Parliament has multiple types of committees.
  • They can be differentiated on the basis of their work, their membership and the length of their tenure. First are committees that examine bills, budgets and policies of ministries.
  • These are called departmentally related Standing Committees. There are 24 such committees and between them, they focus on the working of different ministries.
  • Each committee has 31 MPs, 21 from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha.
  • The main purpose is to ensure the accountability of Government to Parliament through a more detailed consideration of measures in these committees.
  • The purpose is not to weaken or criticize the administration but to strengthen by investing in with more meaningful parliamentary support.

When does a committee examine a Bill?

  • Bills are not automatically sent to committees for examination. There are three broad paths by which a Bill can reach a committee.
  • The first is when the minister piloting the Bill recommends to the House that his Bill be examined by a Select Committee of the House or a joint committee of both Houses.
  • Last year Electronics and IT Minister moved a motion in Lok Sabha referring the Personal Data Protection Bill to a Joint Committee.
  • If the minister makes no such motion, it is up to the presiding officer of the House to decide whether to send a Bill to a departmentally related Standing Committee.

What happens when a bill goes to a Committee?

  • Sending a Bill to any committee results in two things.
  • First, the committee undertakes a detailed examination of the Bill. It invites comments and suggestions from experts, stakeholders and citizens.
  • The government also appears before the committee to present its viewpoint.
  • All this results in a report that makes suggestions for strengthening the Bill. While the committee is deliberating on a Bill, there is a pause in its legislative journey.
  • It can only progress in Parliament after the committee has submitted its report. Usually, parliamentary committees are supposed to submit their reports in three months, but sometimes it can take longer.

What happens after the report?

  • The report of the committee is of a recommendatory nature. The government can choose to accept or reject its recommendations.
  • Very often the government incorporates suggestions made by committees. Select Committees and JPCs have an added advantage.
  • In their report, they can also include their version of the Bill. If they do so, the minister in charge of that particular Bill can move for the committee’s version of the Bill to be discussed and passed in the House.
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