Parliamentary Committees UPSC

What is the role of a parliamentary committee?
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The Parliament is far too cumbersome a body to effectively debate the topics that come before it. The Parliament’s responsibilities are numerous, complex, and extensive. Furthermore, it lacks the time and expertise to conduct a thorough examination of all legislative proposals and other matters. As a result, a number of committees support it in carrying out its responsibilities.

The Indian Constitution mentions these committees in several places, but contains no particular rules for their composition, term, or activities. The rules of two Houses govern all of these issues. As a result, a parliamentary committee is defined as one that is:

1. appointed or elected by the House, or nominated by the Speaker / Chairman.
2. Follows the Speaker / Chairman’s instructions.
3. Delivers its report to the House of Representatives or the Speaker / Chairman.
4. Is the Lok Sabha / Rajya Sabha providing a secretariat?

Consultative committees, which include members of Parliament, are not parliamentary committees because they do not meet the four criteria listed above.

Classification of Parliamentary Committees
Standing Committees and Ad Hoc Committees are the two types of parliamentary committees. The former are permanent (formed once a year or on a regular basis) and work continuously, whilst the latter are transitory and cease to exist once the task entrusted to them is completed.

Standing Committees

1. Financial Committees

(a) Estimates Committee (b) Public Accounts Committee
c) Public Undertakings Committee

2. Departmental Standing Committees (24)

3. Inquiry Committees

(a) Petitions Committee (b) Privileges Committee (c) Ethics Committee

4. Scrutiny and Control Committees

(a) Government Assurances Committee (b) Subordinate Legislation Committee (c) Committee on the Tabled Papers (d) Committee on the Welfare of SCs and STs (e) Committee for Women’s Empowerment (f) Joint Committee on Offices to Profit

5. Committees dealing to the Day-to-Day Business of the House

 (a) Business AAdvisory Committee (b) Rules Committee (c) Committee on Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions (d) Committee on Absence of Members from House Sittings

6. House-Keeping Committeess or service committees (i.e., committees responsible for providing members with facilities and services):

 (a) General Purposes Committee (b) House Committee (c) Library Committee (d) Joint Committee on Members’ Salaries and Allowances

 Ad Hoc Committees 
Inquiry Committees and Advisory Committees are the two types of ad hoc committees.
1. From time to time, Inquiry Committees are formed to investigate and report on certain matters, either by the two Houses on a motion adopted in that regard, or by the Speaker / Chairman. Consider the following scenario:
(a) Committee on Certain Members’ Conduct During the President’s Address (b) Committee on the Draft Five-Year Plan (c) Railway Convention Committee (d) Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) (e) Joint Committee on the Bofors Contract (f) Joint Committee on Fertilizer Pricing
(h) Joint Committee to Investigate Securities and Banking Transactions Abnormalities
g) Stock Market Scam Joint Committee
(I) Joint Committee on Security in the House of Commons Complex
(j) Committee on Computers for Members of Parliament, Political Party Offices, and Lok Sabha Secretariat Officers (k) Committee on Food Management in Parliament House Complex (l) Committee on Installation of Portraits / Statues of National Leaders and Parliamentarians in Parliament House Complex (m) Joint Committee on Preservation of Heritage Character and Development of Parliament House Complex (n) Committee on Protocol Norms and Conte
(o) Joint Committee to Examine Matters Relating to Telecom Licences and Spectrum Allocation and Pricing
2. Advisory Committees include select or joint committess on bills which are appointed to consider and report on particular bills. These committees are distinct from the other ad hoc committees in that they deal with bills, and the procedure they must follow is outlined in the Rules of Procedure and the Speaker’s/Directions. Chairman’s

When a Bill comes up for general debate in a House, that House has the option of referring it to a Select Committee of the House or a Joint Committee of the two Houses. In the House where the Bill is being debated, a motion to this effect must be moved and accepted. If the move to send the Bill to a Joint Committee is approved, the decision is communicated to the other House, with members of the other House being asked to nominate members to serve on the Committee.

The Select or Joint Committee, like the two Houses, examines the Bill clause by clause. Members of the Committee can propose amendments to certain provisions. Associations, public bodies, and experts with an interest in the Bill can also testify before the Committee. The Committee then provides its report to the House after considering the Bill. Members who disagree with the majority report may add their dissenting minutes to the document.

 Financial Committees

Public Accounts Committee

This committee was established in 1921 under the requirements of the Government of India Act of 1919, and it has been in operation since then. It currently has 22 members (15 Lok Sabha members and 7 Rajya Sabha members). Every year, the members are elected by the Parliament from among its members using the single transferable vote in accordance with the concept of proportional representation. As a result, all sides are fairly represented.

The members have a one-year term of office. As a member of the committee, a minister cannot be elected. The Speaker appoints the chairperson of the committee from among its members. The head of the committee was a member of the ruling party until 1966–67. Since 1967, however, a tradition has arisen in which the chairman of the committee is generally chosen from the opposition.

The committee’s job is to go over the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) annual audit reports, which are presented to Parliament by the President. The CAG presents the President with three audit reports: an audit report on appropriation accounts, an audit report on finance accounts, and an audit report on public undertakings.

The committee investigates public spending not only from a legal and formal standpoint to uncover technical irregularities, but also from the standpoints of economy, prudence, wisdom, and propriety to uncover instances of waste, loss, corruption, extravagance, inefficiency, and nugatory expenditures.

The committee’s responsibilities are as follows:
1. To examine the Union government’s appropriation and finance accounts, as well as any other accounts submitted before the Lok Sabha. The appropriation accounts compare actual expenditure to that authorized by Parliament through the Appropriation Act, whereas the finance accounts indicate the Union Government’s annual receipts and disbursements.
2. The committee must satisfy itself that (a) the money that was disbursed was legally accessible for the applied service or purpose (b) the expenditure complies with the authority that rules it by scrutinizing the appropriation accounts and the CAG’s audit report on it.
(c) All re-appropriations have been carried out in conformity with the applicable rules.
3. Examine the financial statements of state corporations, trading companies, and manufacturing projects, as well as the CAG’s audit report on them (except those public undertakings which are allotted to the Committee on Public Undertakings)
4. To investigate the accounts of autonomous and semi-autonomous organisations whose accounts are audited by the CAG.
5. To analyze the CAG’s report on the audit of any receipt or to inspect the store and stock accounts.
6. To look into any money spent on a service during a fiscal year that exceeds the amount authorized by the Lok Sabha for that purpose.

The CAG assists the committee in carrying out the aforementioned duties. In fact, the CAG serves as the committee’s leader, companion, and philosopher.

“Over a period of years, the committee has perfectly met the expectation that it should develop into a powerful force in the control of public expenditure,” Ashok Chanda (who was also a CAG of India) said of the committee’s work. It might be argued that the Public Accounts Committee’s traditions and customs are in keeping with the best traditions of parliamentary democracy.”

However, the committee’s usefulness is restricted by the following factors: (a) It is not concerned with policy issues in a broad sense.
(b) It does a post-mortem review of the accounts (indicating the amount of money already spent).
(c) It is unable to intervene in day-to-day administrative concerns.
(d) Its proposals are merely suggestions and do not obligate the ministries.
(e) It does not have the authority to deny spending by departments.
(f) Because it is not an executive body, it is unable to issue orders. Only Parliament has the authority to make a final judgment on the findings.

Estimates Comittee

The origins of this committee can be traced back to the 1921 establishment of a standing financial committee. On the recommendation of John Mathai, the then finance minister, the first Estimates Committee in the post-independence era was formed in 1950. It had 25 members at first, but that number was increased to 30 in 1956. The Lok Sabha is represented by all thirty members. This committee has no members from the Rajya Sabha. Every year, the Lok Sabha elects these members from among its own members, using the principles of proportional representation and a single transferable vote. As a result, all sides are fairly represented. The post has a one-year tenure. As a member of the committee, a minister cannot be elected. The Speaker appoints the committee’s chairman from among its members, and he is invariably from the ruling party.

The committee’s job is to look over the budget estimates and provide recommendations for’savings’ in government spending. As a result, it’s been dubbed a ‘continuous economy committee.’

The committee’s responsibilities are as follows:

  1. To report on what economies, improvements in organization, efficiency, and administrative reform can be achieved in accordance with the policy underlying the estimates. 2. To offer alternative policies to achieve administrative efficiency and economy.
  2. Determine if the funds are properly allocated within the policy parameters outlined in the estimates.
  3. Make recommendations for how the estimates should be presented to Parliament.

The Committee will not carry out its duties in connection to public undertakings that have been assigned to the Committee on Public Undertakings. The Committee may continue to examine the estimates at any time during the fiscal year and report to the House as the investigation progresses. The Committee is not required to review all of the estimates for any given year. Despite the fact that the Committee has not issued a report, the grant requests may be voted on in the end.

However, the committee’s efficiency is hampered by the following factors:
(a) It considers the budget estimates only after the Parliament has voted on them, not before.
(b) It is not permitted to dispute the Parliament’s policy.
(c) Its proposals are merely suggestions and do not obligate the ministries.
(d) It only evaluates a limited number of ministries and departments each year. As a result, it would rotate through all of them over a period of years.
(e) It does not have access to the CAG’s expert help, which the Public Accounts Committee does.
(f) Its work resembles that of a postmortem.

Public Undertakings Committee

The Krishna Menon Committee recommended that this committee be formed in 1964. It had 15 members in the outset, 10 from the Lok Sabha and 5 from the Rajya Sabha. Its membership was increased to 22 in 1974 (15 from the Lok Sabha and 7 from the Rajya Sabha). Every year, the members of this committee are chosen by the Parliament from among its own members using the proportional representation method and a single transferable vote. As a result, all sides are fairly represented. The members have a one-year term of office. As a member of the committee, a minister cannot be elected. The Speaker appoints the committee’s chairman from among its members, who must all be Lok Sabha members. As a result, the chairmanship of the committee cannot be given to a member of the Rajya Sabha.

The committee’s duties include: 1. Examining reports and accounts of public undertakings.

  1. Examine the Comptroller and Auditor General’s reports on public undertakings
  2. To determine whether the affairs of public undertakings are handled in line with solid business principles and sensible commercial practices (in the framework of autonomy and efficiency).
  3. To carry out any additional tasks vested in the public accounts and estimates committees in regard to public undertakings that the Speaker may assign to it from time to time.

The committee is not to examine and investigate any of the following:

(i) Matters of major government policy as distinct from business or commercial functions of the public undertakings
(ii) Matters of day-to-day administration
(iii) Matters for the consideration of which machinery is established by any special statute under which a particular public undertaking is established

Furthermore, the committee’s efficiency is limited by the following factors: (a) It cannot examine more than ten to twelve public projects per year.
(a) Its job resembles that of a post-mortem examination.
(c) It does not investigate technological issues because none of its members are technical professionals.
(d) Its proposals are merely suggestions and do not obligate the ministries.

Departmental Standing Committees
In 1993, the Parliament established 17 Departmentally-Related Standing Committees (DRSCs) on the proposal of the Lok Sabha Rules Committee. Seven more such committees were formed in 2004, bringing the total number of such panels to 24.

The fundamental goal of the standing committees is to ensure that the Executive (i.e., the Council of Ministers) is more accountable to Parliament, particularly in terms of financial accountability. They also aid Parliament in more efficiently debating the budget.

The 24 standing committees have jurisdiction over all of the Central Government’s ministries and departments.

Each standing committee has 31 members (21 Lok Sabha members and 10 Rajya Sabha members). The Speaker of the Lok Sabha nominates members from among the Lok Sabha’s members, much as the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha nominates members from among the Rajya Sabha’s members.

A minister cannot be nominated for a position on any of the standing committees. If a person is appointed a minister after being nominated to one of the standing committees, he ceases to be a member of the committee.

Each standing committee’s term of office begins on the date of its formation and ends one year later.

The Rajya Sabha has eight standing committees, while the Lok Sabha has sixteen.

Table 23.1 lists the 24 standing committees and the ministries/departments that fall under their competence.

Each of the standing committees has the following responsibilities: 1. Consider grant requests from concerned ministries/departments before they are debated and voted on in the Lok Sabha. Its report should not contain any information on cut motions.

  1. To review bills relevant to the ministries / departments in question.
  2. To take into account annual reports from ministries and departments.
  3. To evaluate the national long-term policy documents that have been given to the Houses.

The following restrictions apply to the functioning of these standing committees: I They should not address matters relating to the day-to-day administration of the involved ministries / departments.

Departmental Standing Committees

Sl.No. Name of the Committees Ministries / Departments Covered
I. Committees under Rajya Sabha
1. Committee on Commerce Commerce and Industry
2. Committee on Home Affairs (1) Home Affairs
(2) Development of North-Eastern Region
3. Committee on Human Resource Development (1) Human Resource Development
(2) Youth Affairs and Sports
(3) Women and Child Development
4. Committee on Industry (1) Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises
(2) Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises
5. Committee on Science & Technology, Environment & Forests (1) Science and Technology
(2) Space
(3) Earth Sciences
(4) Atomic Energy
(5) Environment, Forests and Climate Change
6. Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture (1) Civil Aviation
(2) Road Transport & Highways
(3) Shipping
(4) Culture
(5) Tourism
7. Committee on Health & Family Welfare (1) Health and Family Welfare
(2) Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH)
8. Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice (1) Law and Justice
(2) Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions
II. Committees under Lok Sabha
9. Committee on Agriculture (1) Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare
(2) Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairing
(3) Food Processing Industries
10. Committee on Information Technology (1) Communication
(2) Electronics & Information Technology
(3) Information & Broadcasting
11. Committee on Defence Defence
12. Committee on Energy (1) New and Renewable Energy
(2) Power
13. Committee on External Affairs External Affairs
14. Committee on Finance (1) Finance
(2) Corporate Affairs
(3) Planning
(4) Statistics and Programme Implementation
15. Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
16. Committee on Labour (1) Labour & Employment
(2) Skill Development & Entrepreneurship
(3) Textiles
17. Committee on Petroleum & Natural Gas Petroleum and Natural Gas
18. Committee on Railways Railways
19. Committee on Urban Development Housing and Urban Affairs
20. Committee on Water Resources Jal Shakti
21. Committee on Chemicals and Fertilizers Chemicals and Fertilizers
22. Committee on Rural Development (1) Rural Development
(2) Panchayati Raj
23. Committee on Coal and Steel (1) Coal
(2) Mines
(3) Steel
24. Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment (1) Social Justice and Empowerment
(2) Tribal Affairs
(3) Minority Affairs

(ii) They should not take up issues that are already being discussed by other parliamentary committees.

It is important to remember that the committees’ recommendations are advisory in nature and hence do not bind the Parliament.

Each of the standing committees must follow the method outlined below when considering grant requests and reporting to the Houses on their findings.
(a) The Houses shall adjourn for a set period once the general discussion on the budget has concluded.
(a) During the aforementioned period, the committees will consider the concerned ministries’ grant requests.
(c) The committees must submit their reports on schedule and without requesting additional time.
(d) The House will assess grant requests in light of the committee reports.
(e) There will be a separate report on each ministry’s grant requests.

Each of the standing committees will examine the bills and report on them using the procedure outlined below.
(a) The committee will assess the general principles and clauses of the bills it has been referred to.
(a) The Committee will only consider bills that have been referred to it after being introduced in one of the Houses.
(c) The Committee must submit a report on bills within a certain time frame.

The merits of the Parliament’s standing committee system are as follows: (1) Their deliberations are free of any party influence.
(2) Their method is more flexible than that of the Lok Sabha.
(3) The system strengthens legislative oversight of the executive branch by making it more thorough, ongoing, in-depth, and complete.
(4) The method improves cost-effectiveness and efficiency in government spending by requiring ministries and departments to be more cautious in drafting their demands.
(5) They make it easier for all members of Parliament to participate in and understand how the government works, as well as contribute to it.
(6) They can get expert or public input to help them write the reports. They have the authority to call experts and notable people to testify in front of them and to include their findings in their reports.
(7) Opposition parties and the Rajya Sabha can now exercise more financial control over the executive branch.

Committees to Inquiry 

Committee on Petitions

This committee looks into petitions for measures and other items of public concern. It also considers individual and group representations on Union-related issues. The Lok Sabha committee is made up of 15 members, whereas the Rajya Sabha committee is made up of ten.

Committee of Privileges

This committee’s functions are semi-judicial in nature. It investigates cases of breaches of the House’s and its members’ privileges and makes recommendations for appropriate action. The Lok Sabha committee is made up of 15 members, whereas the Rajya Sabha committee is made up of ten.

 Ethics Committee

The Rajya Sabha established this committee in 1997, while the Lok Sabha established it in 2000. It is in charge of enforcing the members of Parliament’s code of conduct. It investigates cases of wrongdoing and makes recommendations for corrective action. As a result, it is tasked with ensuring order and decorum in the House of Commons.

Committees to Scrutinise and Control

Committee on Government Assurances

This committee investigates ministers’ assurances, promises, and commitments made on the House floor from time to time, and reports on the extent to which they have been kept. It is composed of 15 members in the Lok Sabha and 10 members in the Rajya Sabha. It was established in 1953.

Committee on Subordinate Legislation 

This committee investigates and reports to the House on whether the Executive is correctly exercising the rights to make regulations, rules, sub-rules, and bye-laws delegated by Parliament or granted by the Constitution. The committee consists of 15 members in both Houses. It was established in 1953.

Committee on Papers Laid on the Table

In 1975, this committee was formed. The Lok Sabha Committee is made up of 15 members, whereas the Rajya Sabha Committee is made up of ten. It reviews all ministerial papers presented on the table of the House to check if they are in compliance with the Constitution, or any connected Act or Rule. It does not look into statutory notifications and orders that fall under the Committee on Subordinate Legislation’s authority.

Committee on Welfare of SCs and STs

This committee has 30 members (20 Lok Sabha members and 10 Rajya Sabha members). Its tasks are to: I analyze the reports of the National Commissions for SCs and STs; and (ii) examine all things relevant to the welfare of SCs and STs, such as the implementation of constitutional and statutory safeguards, the operation of welfare programs, and so on.

Women’s Empowerment Committee

This committee, which was established in 1997, has 30 members (20 from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha). It evaluates the National Commission for Women’s reports and assesses the Union Government’s efforts to ensure women’s position, dignity, and equality in all areas.

Joint Committee on Offices of Profit

This committee investigates the makeup and nature of committees and other bodies appointed by the federal, state, and union territory administrations, and makes recommendations on whether or not those who hold these positions should be barred from being elected to Parliament. It is made up of 15 members (ten from the Lok Sabha and five from the Rajya Sabha).

Committees Relating to the Day-to-Day Bisiness of the House

This committee oversees the House’s agenda and timetable. It sets aside time for the government’s legislative and other work to be dealt with in the House. The Lok Sabha committee is made up of 15 members, with the Speaker serving as chairman. There are 11 members in the Rajya Sabha, including the Chairman, who serves as its exofficio chairman.

Committees on Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions 

This committee classifies bills and allots time for debate on bills and resolutions filed by non-ministerial private members. This is a Lok Sabha special committee of 15 members, including the Deputy Speaker as its chairperson. There is no such committee in the Rajya Sabha. The House’s Business Advisory Committee performs the similar job in the Rajya Sabha.

Rules Committee

This committee examines House procedure and business conduct and makes recommendations for required revisions or additions to the House rules. The Lok Sabha committee has 15 members, including the Speaker, who serves as the committee’s ex-officio chairman. The Rajya Sabha has 16 members, including the Chairman, who serves as its exofficio chairman.

Committee on Members’ Absences

This committee analyzes all requests for leave of absence from House sessions, as well as members who have been away for 60 days or longer without authorization. It is a Lok Sabha special committee comprised of 15 members. In the Rajya Sabha, there is no such committee, and all such concerns are handled by the House itself.

House-Keeping Committees

General Purposes Committee 

This committee considers and advises on subjects relating to the House’s business that are not covered by any other legislative committee. This committee in each House is made up of the presiding officer (Speaker / Chairman) as ex-officio chairman, the Deputy Speaker (Deputy Chairman in the case of Rajya Sabha), members of the panel of chairpersons (panel of vice-chairpersons in the case of Rajya Sabha), chairpersons of all the House’s departmental standing committees, leaders of recognized parties and groups, and other members nominated by the presiding officer.

 House Committee

This committee is responsible for members’ residential accommodations in Delhi, as well as other amenities like as food, medical assistance, and other services provided to them in their homes and hostels. House Committees exist in both chambers of Congress. There are 12 members in the Lok Sabha.

 Library Committee 

This committee analyzes all issues concerning the Parliamentary Library and supports members in using the library’s services. It is made up of nine members (six Lok Sabha members and three Rajya Sabha members).

Joint Committee on Salaries and Allowances of Members

The Salary, Allowances, and Pension of Members of Parliament Act of 1954 established this body. It is made up of 15 members (ten from the Lok Sabha and five from the Rajya Sabha). It establishes guidelines for the payment of members of Parliament’s salaries, allowances, and pensions.

Consultative Committees
Various ministries and departments of the Central Government have consultative committees. They are made up of MPs from both Houses of Parliament. The head of the consultative committee of the ministry in question is the Minister / Minister of State in charge of that ministry.

These committees provide as a venue for informal conversations between ministers and members of Parliament about the government’s policies and programs, as well as how they are implemented.

The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs appoints these committees. This Ministry establishes standards for the composition, functions, and processes of various committees. The Ministry also arranges for meetings to take place during the Parliamentary session and the inter-session time.

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