In this article, You will read Parliamentary Committees: Roles, and Functions – for UPSC IAS.
Indian Constitution mentions two kinds of Parliamentary Committees – Standing Committees and Ad Hoc Committees. Any subject related to these committees is dealt with Article 118 (1) of the Indian Constitution.
As is the case with several other practices of Indian parliamentary democracy, the institution of Parliamentary Committees also has its origins in the British Parliament. In independent India, the first Public Accounts Committee was constituted in April 1950.
Parliamentary committees draw their authority from Article 105 (on privileges of Parliament members) and Article 118 (on Parliament’s authority to make rules for regulating its procedure and conduct of business).
- Parliamentary committees are important institutions of the Indian Parliament without which parliamentary functions could not be deposed off effectively.
- The work done by the Parliament in modern times is not only varied and complex in nature but also considerable in volume. On the other hand, the Minister’s time is considerably engrossed by the day-to-day affairs of Parliament. It cannot, therefore, give close consideration to all the legislative and other matters that come up before it.
- A major portion of its business is, therefore, transacted in various committees of the House, known as parliamentary committees.
- Parliamentary committees are therefore the backbone of parliamentary power and autonomy. To put it in other words, the Indian Parliament has entrusted its business to various committees. These committees are constituted in such a way to represent a replica of the House.
- The committees of the parliament are considered to be a necessary adjunct of the work of the parliament as they make the parliamentary work smooth, time-saving, and expeditious. They exercise effective control of government activities on a regular basis.
Parliamentary committees not only help in achieving the objectives of a government but also they save valuable time of the Parliament.
By their nature, parliamentary committees are of two kinds:
- Standing committees
- Adhoc committees
Standing committees are permanent and regular committees. They are constituted from time to time by the Chairman of Rajya Sabha or Speaker of Lok Sabha, as the case may be, in pursuance of the provisions of an Act of Parliament or Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha. The works of these committees are of continuous nature.
The Financial Committees, Committees to Inquire, Committee to Scrutinize and Control, Committees for Welfare, etc. are few committees that come under the category of Standing Committee.
- As per the “Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha”, there are 19 Standing Parliamentary Committees and 24 Departmentally Related Standing Committees. Out of the 19 Standing Parliamentary Committees, 3 are Financial Committees viz. Committee on Public Accounts, Committee on Estimates, and Committee on Public Undertakings. Some committees have members only from Lok Sabha while some have members from both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha.
Standing Committees – there are six types of standing committees in India. They are permanent in nature.
- Financial Committees
- Public Accounts Committee
- Estimates Committee
- Committee on Public Undertakings
- Departmental Standing Committees (Total-24)
- Committees to Inquire
- Committee on Petitions
- Committee of Privilege
- Ethics Committee
- Committees to Scrutinise and Control
- Committee on Government Assurances
- Committee on Subordinate Legislation
- Committee on Papers Laid on the Table
- Committee on Welfare of SCs and STs
- Committee on Empowerment of Women
- Joint Committee on Offices of Profit
- Committees Relating to the Day-to-Day Business of the House
- Business Advisory Committee
- Committee on Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions
- Rules Committee
- Committee on Absence of Members from Sittings of the House
- House-Keeping Committees or Service Committees
- General Purposes Committee
- House Committee
- Library Committee
- Joint Committee on Salaries and Allowances of Members
On the other hand, Adhoc committees are appointed for a specific purpose and they cease to exist when they finish the task assigned to them. Examples of principal ad hoc committees are Parliamentary Select Committees or Joint Committees on Bills, Railway Convention Committee.
Ad Hoc Committees – there are two types of ad-hoc committees. They are temporary in nature.
- Inquiry Committees
- Advisory Committees
1. Inquiry Committees
These committees can be proposed by either house or can also be appointed by the speaker/chairman of the respective house. Few examples of Inquire Committees are:
- Joint Committee on Bofors Contract
- Joint Committee on Fertilizer Pricing
- Joint Committee to Enquire into Irregularities in Securities and Banking Transactions
- Joint Committee on Stock Market Scam, etc.
2. Advisory Committees
These committees are select or joint committees appointed for the matters of bills. They report on particular bills. They are different from the inquiry committees as the procedure that they follow are laid down in the Rules of Procedure and also are directed by the Lok Sabha speaker or Rajya Sabha chairman.
Important Points on these committees are noted as follows:
Committee on Public Accounts:
Public Accounts Committee examines the manners and results of spending the public funds. It examines the accounts showing the appropriation of the funds granted by the parliament to various ministries and ensures that the money was used for the purpose for which it was sanctioned.
- The Comptroller & Auditor General of India support this committee.
- Apart from the Reports of Comptroller and Auditor General of India on Appropriation Accounts of the Union Government, the Committee examines the various Audit Reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General on revenue receipts, expenditure by various Ministries/Departments of Government, and accounts of autonomous bodies.
- This committee oversees the regularization of the excess in the manner envisaged in Article 115 of the Constitution.
- It has 22 members comprising 15 Members of Lok Sabha elected by Lok Sabha from amongst its members according to the principle of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote for a term not exceeding one year and not more than 7 members of Rajya Sabha to be nominated by the House for being associated with the Committee.
- The Chairman of this committee is appointed by the Speaker amongst the Members of Lok Sabha. A Minister is not eligible to be elected as a member of the Committee, and if a member after his election to the Committee is appointed to hold such an office he ceases to be a member of the Committee from the date of such appointment.
- Please note that for the first time, the Public Accounts Committee was set up by the central legislative Assembly in 1923.
The difference between the Estimates Committee and the Public Accounts Committee is that the Estimates committee scrutinizes the Estimates while the Public Accounts Committee scrutinizes the appropriation and manner of spending.
Estimates Committee’s functions are –
- To examine the annual estimates and suggest alternative policies to the Government to ensure the efficiency and economy in administration.
- To report what economies, improvements in organization, efficiency, or administrative reform, consistent with the policy underlying the estimates, may be affected.
- To report whether the money laid down in estimates is well within the limits of the policy implied.
- This Committee has 30 members elected annually by the Lok Sabha from amongst its members according to the principle of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote.
- The Chairman of the Committee is appointed by the Speaker.
- A Minister cannot be a member of this committee and if the member is appointed as Minister, he/she shall cease to be a member of this committee.
Committee on Public Undertakings:
- Committee on Public Undertakings was for the first time in November 1963 by a resolution of Lok Sabha and at that time it was having 15 members viz. 10 from Lok Sabha and 5 from Rajya Sabha.
- Now it has not more than 22 members out of whom 15 members are elected by Lok Sabha from amongst its members according to the principle of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote and not more than 7 members from Rajya Sabha to be nominated by that House.
- The term of office of members is 1 year.
- Chairman is appointed by Speaker.
- Minister is not eligible to become a member and if a member is appointed Minister, he/she shall cease to be a member on such an appointment.
- This committee examines the reports and accounts of the Public Undertakings and reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General thereon if any.
- This committee oversees whether, in the context of their autonomy and efficiency, the affairs of the Public Undertakings are being managed in accordance with sound business principles and prudent commercial practices.
- The companies include all the Government Companies whose Annual Reports are placed before the Houses of Parliament under section 619A (1) of the Companies Act, 1956, and statutory Corporations whose names have been specified in the Fourth Schedule to the Rules of Procedure come within the purview of the Committee.
Business Advisory Committee:
- The Business Advisory Committee is constituted at the commencement of the new Lok Sabha after the general elections and thereafter from time to time under the provisions of Rules of Lok Sabha.
- No specific term of its office is laid down in the rules but like other parliamentary committees, it holds office until a new committee is nominated by the Speaker.
- In practice, however, the Committee is usually reconstituted every year and assumes office in the first week of June. It consists of 15 members including the Speaker who is the ex-officio Chairman of the Committee.
- The members of the Committee are nominated by the Speaker.
- The function of the Committee is to recommend the time that should be allocated for the discussion of the stage or stages of Government Bills and other business as the Speaker, in consultation with the Leader of the House, may direct for being referred to the Committee.
- The committee plans and regulates the Business of the house and renders advice regarding the allocation of time for various discussions.
Committee on Petitions:
- Committee on Petitions consists of 15 members nominated by the Speaker.
- A Minister is not nominated a member of the Committee and if a member after his nomination to the Committee is appointed to such an office, he ceases to be a member of the Committee.
- The Chairman of the Committee is appointed by the Speaker from amongst the members of the Committee. Normally the Committee is reconstituted every year.
- The major function is to examine every petition referred to it and if the petition complies with the rules to direct that it be circulated.
Committee of Privileges:
- The Committee of Privileges consists of 15 members nominated by the Speaker.
- The Chairman of the Committee is appointed by the Speaker from amongst the members of the Committee.
- The committee examines the cases regarding the violation of privileges of the members of parliament and also recommends appropriate action.
- After March 1986 when Members of Lok Sabha (Disqualification on Ground of Defection) Rules, 1985, became effective, the Speaker may refer to the Committee any petition regarding disqualification of a member on the ground of defection for making a preliminary inquiry and submitting a report to him.
- The procedure to be followed by the Committee in these cases is so far as may be the same as is applicable to questions of breach of privilege.
Committee on Subordinate Legislation:
- The major function of this committee is to examine the rules and regulations enacted by the executive to fill the gaps in the laws enacted by the parliament and report how far these rules are within limits prescribed in the main law.
Committee on Government Assurances:
- Committee on Government Assurances scrutinizes the assurances, promises, undertakings, etc., given by the Minister on the floor of the House from time to time during the Question Hour as also during the discussion on Bills, Resolutions, motions, etc., and to report to the House, the extent to which such assurances, promises or undertakings, etc., have been implemented and where implemented whether such implementation has taken place within the minimum time necessary for the purpose.
Committee on Absence of Members from the Sittings of the House:
- Committee on Absence of Members from the Sittings of the House examines the leave applications of the members.
- It also examines if any member is absent from the house without permission for more than 2 months.
- Rules committee considers the matters of procedure and conduct of business in the House and recommends any amendments or additions to the rules that may be deemed necessary.
General Purposes Committee:
- This committee consists of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Members of the Panel of Chairmen, Chairmen of all Standing Parliamentary Committees of Lok Sabha, Leaders of recognized parties and groups in Lok Sabha, and such other Members as may be nominated by the Speaker.
- The Speaker is the ex-officio Chairman of the Committee.
- This committee considers and advises on such matters concerning the affairs of the House as may be referred to it by the Speaker from time to time.
- House Committee deals with all questions relating to residential accommodation for members of Lok Sabha and exercises supervision over facilities for accommodation, food, medical aid, and other amenities accorded to members in members’ residences and hostels in Delhi.
Joint Committee on Salaries and Allowances of Members of Parliament:
- As per the provisions of Salary, Allowances, and Pension of Members of Parliament Act, 1954 a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament consisting of five members from the Rajya Sabha nominated by the Chairman and ten members from the Lok Sabha nominated by the Speaker is constituted.
- It is empowered to frame the rules for regulating the salaries and amenities such as housing, Telephone, Postal, Secretarial, and medical facilities.
Joint Committee on Offices of Profit:
- The Joint Committee on Offices of Profit is constituted in pursuance of a Government motion adopted by Lok Sabha and concurred in by Rajya Sabha for the duration of Lok Sabha.
- It examines the composition of the various committees and bodies constituted by the Union and State Governments and recommends whether the persons holding these offices and reports whether the persons holding these offices should be disqualified from being elected as MPs or not.
Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
- This 30 member committee examines the report of the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for the Scheduled Tribes under Articles 338 (5)(d) and 338A(5) (d), respectively of the Constitution and to report as to the measures that should be taken by the Union Government in respect of matters within the purview of the Union Government including the Administrations of the Union Territories.
Departmentally Related Standing Committees (DRSCs)
- Departmentally Related Standing Committees (DRSCs) were constituted on 29th March 1993 covering all Government Ministries/Departments. These DRSCs replaced the earlier three subject Committees constituted in August 1989. The 17 DRSCs were formally constituted with effect from 8th April 1993. At present, there are 24 Departmentally Related Standing Committees (DRSCs).