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What are Committees of Parliament?

A Parliamentary Committee is a panel of MPs that is appointed or elected by the House or nominated by the Speaker/Chairman...

A Parliamentary Committee is a panel of MPs that is appointed or elected by the House or nominated by the Speaker/Chairman.

The committee works under the direction of the Speaker/Chairman and it presents its report to the House or to the Speaker/Chairman.

Parliamentary Committees have their origins in the British Parliament.

They draw their authority from Article 105 and Article 118.

Article 105 deals with the privileges of MPs.

Article 118 gives Parliament authority to make rules to regulate its procedure and conduct of business.

What are the Various Committees of Parliament?

India’s Parliament has multiple types of committees. They can be differentiated on the basis of their work, their membership, and the length of their tenure.

However, broadly there are two types of Parliamentary Committees– Standing Committees and Ad Hoc 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 Committees

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.

What is the Significance of Parliamentary Committees?

What is the issue?
  • The discussion over the RTI Amendment Bill was much controversial in the Rajya Sabha.
  • The opposition parties’ demand, to refer the Bill to a committee of the House for detailed scrutiny before being passed, needs serious consideration.
What was the contention?
  • Opposition parties were demanding that the Bill be referred to a Parliamentary committee for detailed scrutiny.
  • The treasury benches and a few other parties emphasized on debating the Bill on the floor of the house before being passed.
  • But ultimately, the House passed the RTI Amendment after voting down the demand for sending it to a committee.
  • So far, none of the 13 bills passed by the Parliament in the current session have been referred to a parliamentary committee.
How is consent ensured in the Parliament?
  • Indian Parliament broadly has two forums for discussion.
  • One is on the floor of the House where the debate is televised and MPs take positions based on their parties’ stand on a subject.
  • The other is the closed-door forum of parliamentary committees.
  • Their meetings are not televised and the record of the meetings does not reflect the position taken by an individual MP.
What are Parliamentary Committees?
  • Parliamentary committees are established to study and deal with various matters that cannot be directly handled by the legislature due to their volume and complexity.
  • These committees are made up of MPs either from one or both Houses.
  • Both Houses of Parliament have a similar committee structure, with a few exceptions.
  • Their appointment, terms of office, functions and procedure of conducting business are also more or less similar.
  • They are regulated as per rules made by the two Houses under Article 118(1) of the Constitution.
  • Broadly, Parliamentary Committees are of two kinds – Standing Committees and ad hoc Committees.
  • The former are elected or appointed every year or periodically and their work goes on, more or less, on a continuous basis.
  • The latter are appointed on an ad hoc basis as need arises and they cease to exist as soon as they complete the task assigned to them.
How does it work?
  • A bill can usually be referred to a parliamentary committee in 3 ways.
  • First, the minister piloting the bill can seek the permission of the House to refer the Bill to a committee.
  • Second, the Chairman/Speaker has the discretion in referring the bill to a committee.
  • Usually, when ministers are trying to build political consensus on a bill, they welcome its referring to a committee.
  • However, when in a hurry, they impress upon the Chairman/ Speaker not to refer the bill to a committee.
  • This is when the third mechanism comes into play.
  • When a bill reaches a House where the government does not have a majority, the MPs can mobilise the numbers to move a motion to refer the bill to a committee.
  • However, there is an additional dimension to the scrutiny of bills by committees.
  • Whenever the government and Opposition are at extremes in terms of the provisions, the bills are generally not referred to a committee.

What is the need for parliamentary committees?

A Bill is introduced in either House of Parliament to begin a legislative business but the process of law-making is often complex, and Parliament has limited time for detailed discussions.

Provides Legislative Expertise:

Most MPs are not subject matter experts on the topics being discussed — they are generalists who understand the pulse of the people but rely on advice from experts and stakeholders before making decisions.

Parliamentary committees are meant to help MPs seek expertise and give them time to think about issues in detail.

Acting as a Mini-Parliament:

These committees act as a mini-parliament, as they have MPs representing different parties elected into them through a system of the single transferable vote, in roughly the same proportion as their strength in Parliament.

An Instrument for Detailed Scrutiny:

When bills are referred to these committees, they are examined closely and inputs are sought from various external stakeholders, including the public.

Provides a Check on the Government:

Although committee recommendations are not binding on the government, their reports create a public record of the consultations that took place and put pressure on the government to reconsider its stand on debatable provisions.

By virtue of being closed-door and away from the public eye, discussions in committee meetings are also more collaborative, with MPs feeling less pressured to posture for media galleries.

Read Also: Insurgency &Stages Of An Insurgency

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