Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla said India’s strong Parliamentary Committee system works to ensure public participation in legislative oversight work.
• Parliament is assisted by a number of committees in the discharge of its duties.
• The Constitution of India makes a mention of these committees at different places, but without making any specific provisions regarding their composition, tenure, functions, etc.
• All matters regarding the Parliamentary Committees are dealt by the rules of the two Houses of the Parliament.
• Accordingly, a parliamentary committee means a committee that:
o is appointed or elected by the House or nominated by the Speaker/Chairman.
o works under the direction of the Speaker/Chairman.
o presents its report to the House or to the Speaker/Chairman.
o has a secretariat provided by the Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha.
o the consultative committees, which also consist of members of Parliament, are not parliamentary committees as they do not fulfil above four conditions.
• Parliamentary Committees are of two kinds:
o Standing Committees: They are permanent, constituted every year or periodically and work on a continuous basis.
o Ad Hoc Committees: They are temporary and cease to exist on completion of the task assigned to them.
Working Procedure of Parliamentary Committees
Committees hold meetings in the Parliament House or in the Parliament House Annexe, but in special cases with the permission of the Speaker /Chairman, meetings may be held outside also.
A Committee has the power to take oral or written evidence. It may send for persons, papers and records provided that if any question arises whether the evidence of a person or the production of a document is relevant for the purposes of the Committee, the question is referred to the Speaker whose decision is final.
Sub-committees may also be appointed by the main Committee toexamine matters referred to them. The report of the Sub-committeeis submitted to the main Committee.
The sittings of a Committee are held in camera. Thereare no public hearings.
Theproceedings in Committees arelargely conducted in the same manner as in the House butin a more intimate and informal atmosphere and on non-partylines.
When a Committee is deliberating, a membercan speak more than once on a question under the consideration.
All questions are determined by a majority of votesof the members present and voting.
In case of an equal divisionof votes on any matter, the Chairman has a secondor casting vote.
The Committee drafts a report thereafter,on the basis of the minutes of the sittings of the Committeecontaining the substance of deliberations of the Committeetogether with the recommendations.
Reports may be eitherpreliminary or final. It may make a special report on anymatter that comes to light in the course of its work which itmay consider necessary to bring to the notice of the presiding officer, or the House, even if such matter does not fall within theterms of reference.
The report of a Committee is presented to the House by the Chairman of the Committee or any member of the Committee so authorised.
Until a report is presented to the House, it is treated as confidential; it becomes a public document only after its presentation to the House.
A robust lawmaking process requires thorough scrutiny by Parliament. Such scrutiny should not be impacted by either the strength of numbers in Parliament or political agreement on issues.
This robustness can be ensured by requiring that all Bills be referred to Parliamentary committees.
Exceptions to this rule should be strictly defined and the exceptions explained to Parliament.
In addition, the committees should be strengthened to scrutinise and present their reports in a timely fashion. These mechanisms will ensure that all bills passed by Parliament, irrespective of the party in power, go through a well laid-out process of debate.
There is no doubt that the Committees of Parliament have proved a helpful adjunct to the Indian political system. By their constant vigilance and fair and constructive appraisalsof the functioning of government departments, the Committees have made a distinct contribution to the effective working of the Parliament and have played a significant role in generally strengthening parliamentary institutions in the country.
PEPPER IT WITH
Parliamentary Forums, Departmental Standing Committees, Committees to Inquire, Consultative Committees, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs