It has been observed in recent times that the role of parliamentary committees has rested in the formation of Bills, which was not as earlier and they have much more to do with.
So, let us understand the role of Parliamentary committees in a democracy.
What is a Parliamentary Committee?
The Parliamentary committees are established to study and deal with various matters that cannot be directly handled by the legislature due to their volume.
They also monitor the functioning of the executive branch.
Why are they formed?
It is not feasible to take up all issues on the floor of the House of Parliament for discussion. Thus, Parliamentary committees/ panels were made up of Members of Parliament (MPs) who are constituted to deal with such situations and take up sector-specific concerns.
The Parliamentary Committees are formed to deal with the various types of matters for which the parliament play a vital role not merely in law-making, but also in the day-to-day business of the House.
About the role of parliamentary Committees:
The Job profile and the structure of a standing parliamentary committee and the Parliament are the same.
It is the same to the effect that the committees are sometimes called ‘the mini Parliament’.
In a parliamentary democracy, Parliament has broadly two functions:
Oversight of the executive branch of the government.
Parliament is the embodiment of the people’s will. Committees are an instrument of Parliament for their own effective functioning.
Who constitutes these committees?
Most of these committees represent members from both Houses across party lines.
These members are to be nominated by the Speaker of Lok Sabha or the Chairman of Rajya Sabha
The term of office of these committees does not exceed one year.
Parliamentary committees draw their authority from two articles:
Article 105 (on privileges of Parliament members)
Article 118 (on Parliament’s authority to make rules for regulating its procedure and conduct of business).
Committee reports are exhaustive and provide authentic information on matters related to governance.
Bills that are referred to committees are returned to the House with significant value addition.
“Parliament is not bound by the recommendations of committees.”
Types of Parliamentary Committee:
The Standing Committees (DRSC), aligned with specific ministries examines their performance and budgets apart from bills or subjects related to their respective ministries.
The Financial Committees are primarily responsible for scrutinizing the expenditure priorities of the government; suggest measures to improve efficiency in spending and performance of Public Sector Undertakings.
The three financial committees are the Public Accounts Committee, the Estimates Committee and the Committee on Public Undertakings.
The Select Committee is formed for analyzing a specific legislation/policy and is disbanded after submission of its reports.
The Administrative Committees are primarily responsible for ensuring day-to-day activities of the legislature are planned in consultation with the members.
Financial control is a critical tool for Parliament’s authority over the executive; hence finance committees are considered to be particularly powerful.
Business Advisory Committee which prepares the entire schedule of both Houses when Parliament is in session.
Do you Know?
The Estimates Committee is the largest committee of the parliament. It consists of 30 members, all are appointed from the Lok Sabha.
Fewer bills are being referred to it: To strengthen the law-making process, it is important that all bills are examined by Standing Committees before passage. This ensures thorough scrutiny of the law.
In India, there is no such rule to ensure all bills are referred to committees.
As a convention, the ministry piloting the bill recommends the Speaker to refer a bill to the Standing Committee.
Longer tenure for members: The committee system allows a smaller group of legislators to develop technical expertise on a particular subject and ensure better deliberation.
In the present format, the members are nominated to a Standing Committee for one year. However, shifting of committees every year defeats this purpose.
The vice-president, as chairman of the Rajya Sabha, recently emphasized on the need to extend the tenure of committee members.
Discussion of committee reports: The committees make several recommendations in their reports after thorough analysis and feedback from stakeholders.
Since these are recommendatory in nature, the executive may not necessarily accept them. Moreover, the reports of the committees are not taken up for discussion in Parliament except for references in certain debates on bills.
Several of committee’s recommendations are neither implemented nor discussed
Research Support: Committees examine issues that are technical in nature. To equip members to gain an in-depth understanding of issues and finally give sound and nuanced recommendations, it is important that quality research is made available to them.
Institutional research support will allow committees to serve as expert bodies to examine complex policy issues.
National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution, 2002 also recommended need for referring all bills to committee, longer tenure for members and strengthening committees with adequate research support.