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Parliament and its panels

  • 16 September, 2020

  • 5 Min Read

Parliament and its panels

Context:

  • Reports in the media of the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha being keen on amending the business rules of the Rajya Sabha, to give the Department-related Standing Committees (DSRCs) a fixed tenure of two years.

About DRSCs:

  • There are 24 Department-related Standing Committees (DRSCs).
  • These committees were created for the first time in 1993.
  • Out of 24 DSRCs, 16 work under Lok Sabha and 8 under Rajya Sabha.

Composition of DRSCs:

  • DRSCs are joint committees of the two Houses of Parliament. Each DRSC has a total of 31 members consisting of 21 members from Lok Sabha and 10 members from Rajya Sabha.
  • The term of office of the members is one year.
  • The members are nominated by the Speaker and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
  • Ministers cannot be nominated as a member of the committee.
  • The chairman is appointed from amongst the members by the president of the house responsible for that DRSC.

Functions of DRSCs:

  • They consider the demand for grants of the concerned ministries/departments before they are discussed and voted in the house.
  • They examine bills and consider annual reports pertaining to concerned ministries.

Significance of DRSCs:

  • The DRSCs aid in securing the accountability of the executive to the parliament by ensuring their financial accountability.

Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha rules:

  • According to current provisions of the Lok Sabha Rules and the Rajya Sabha Rules, the term of office of the “members” of the DRSC’s shall not exceed one year.
  • The article calls for a rethink of the tenurial prescription for the Department-related Standing Committees based on the following lines.
  • The tenure of Department-related Standing Committees must be prescribed differently for the two Houses. It may be two years for the Rajya Sabha members and for the Lok Sabha members, it may be coterminous with its life.
  • The Rules could also provide that casual vacancies may be filled in by the Presiding Officers, who may also be empowered to reconstitute the membership of their respective Houses in the committees if they so desire.

Arguments in favour of tenure of 2 years:

1. Cuts unnecessary reconstitution:

  • The Rajya Sabha undergoes partial biennial renewal since one-third of its members retire every two years, while the Lok Sabha has a fixed tenure of five years, unless and until it is dissolved earlier.
  • Currently, in the Rajya Sabha, the annual renewal of the DSRCs’ membership is only notional; major changes are brought about only after each biennial election. Hence it would be redundant in going through the re-nomination exercise every year.

2. Building expertise:

  • It would be prudent to formulate a system wherein once a member is nominated to a committee, based on his expertise and/or preference, 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.

3. Flexibility offered in the rules:

  • The language of the Rules of the two Houses makes it clear that the one-year term is of the members of the committees and not of the committees per se. 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.

Source: TH

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