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  • 07 October, 2022

  • 5 Min Read

Parliamentary Committee

Parliamentary Committee

  • The reorganization of 22 Standing Committees took place recently.

What exactly are Parliamentary Committees?

  • A Parliamentary Committee is a group of Members of Parliament appointed or elected by the House or nominated by the Speaker/Chairman.
  • The committee reports to the House or the Speaker/Chairman and works under the direction of the Speaker/Chairman.
  • Parliamentary Committees originated in the British Parliament.
  • They derive their authority from Articles 105 and 118.
  • Article 105 addresses MPs' privileges.
  • Article 118 empowers Parliament to make rules to govern its procedure and conduct of business.
  • Need: To begin the legislative business, a Bill is introduced in either House of Parliament. However, the legislative process is often complex, and Parliament has limited time for detailed discussions.
  • Furthermore, political polarisation and a shrinking middle ground have resulted in increasingly heated and inconclusive debates in Parliament.
  • Because of these issues, much legislative business is conducted in Parliamentary Committees instead.

What are the various Parliamentary Committees?

There are various types of committees in India's Parliament. They can be distinguished by their work, their membership, and the length of their tenure.

  • Standing Committees and Ad Hoc Committees are the two types of Parliamentary Committees.
  • The Standing Committees are permanent (constituted every year or periodically) and work on a continuous basis.
  • Standing Committees can be classified into the following six categories:
  • Financial Committees
  • Departmental Standing Committee
  • Committees to Enquire
  • Committees to Scrutinise and Control
  • Committees Relating to the Day-to-Day Business of the House
  • House-Keeping Committees or Service Committees
  • While the Ad Hoc Committees are temporary and cease to exist on completion of the task assigned to them.
  • They are further subdivided into Inquiry Committees and Advisory Committees.
  • The principal Ad hoc Committees are the Select and Joint Committees on Bills.

What are the Roles of Parliamentary Committees?

Legislative expertise is provided:

  • Most MPs are not subject matter experts on the issues being debated; rather, they are generalists who understand the pulse of the people but rely on expert and stakeholder advice before making decisions.
  • Parliamentary committees are intended to assist MPs in seeking expertise and giving them time to think about issues in depth.

Assembling a Mini-Parliament:

  • These committees function as a mini-parliament because MPs from various parties are elected to them using a single transferable vote system in roughly the same proportion as their strength in Parliament.

An instrument for Detailed Scrutiny:

  • When bills are referred to these committees, they are thoroughly examined and input from various external stakeholders, including the public, is sought.
  • It serves as a check on the government:
  • Although committee recommendations are not legally binding on the government, their reports provide a public record of the consultations that occurred and put pressure on the government to reconsider its position on contentious provisions.
  • Discussions in committee meetings are also more collaborative because they are held behind closed doors and away from the public eye, with MPs feeling less pressured to posture for media galleries.

Why is the marginalisation of Parliamentary Committees a problem?

  • Government Weakening of the Parliamentary System: A parliamentary democracy is based on the doctrine of fusion of powers between the legislature and the executive, but the legislature is supposed to maintain oversight of the government and keep its power in check.
  • By avoiding Parliamentary committees in the passage of significant legislation, there is a risk of undermining democracy.
  • Using Brute Majority: Bills are not required to be sent to committees in the Indian system. It is up to the Chair — the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha — to decide.
  • By granting the Chair discretionary power, the system has been made especially vulnerable in a Lok Sabha where the ruling party has a landslide majority.

Way Forward

  • Mandating scrutiny for major bills passed is not a barrier to the legislative process; rather, it is necessary to maintain the quality of legislation, and thus the quality of governance.
  • As a result, a strong parliamentary committee system is required to ensure the primacy of Parliament in the legislative process.

Read Also: Parliamentary scrutiny on the back burner

Source: The Indian Express

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