Details and types of Parliamentary Committees

Parliamentary Committees, Estimates Committee, Committee on Public Undertakings, Committee on Public Accounts, Departmental Standing Committees, Committee of Privileges, Committee on Absence of Members from the Sittings of the House, Committee on Petitions, Committee on Private Members Bills and Resolutions

Details and types of Parliamentary Committees

Indian Polity

Parliamentary Committees are of two kinds- Adhoc Committees and Standing Committees. Adhoc Committees are appointed for a specific purpose and they cease to exist when they finish the task assigned to them and submit a report. The Principal Adhoc Committees are the select and Joint Committees on Bills. Others like the Railway Convention Committee, the Committees on the draft five-year plans and the Hindi equivalents Committees were appointed for specific purposes.

Apart from the Adhoc Committees, each house of Parliament has standing Committees like the Business Advisory Committee, the Committee on Petitions, the Committee of Privilege and the Rules Committee. An older class of committees which act as Parliament’s Watch Dogs over the executive is of special importance.
These are the Committee on subordinate Legislation, the Committee on Government Assurances, the Committee on Estimates, the Committee on Public Accounts and the Committee on Public Undertakings and the Departmentally Related Standing Committees (DRSCs). They play an important role in exercising check over Government Expenditure and Policy Formulation.

Estimates Committee

  This Committee originated in 1921. This Committee consists of 30 members by the Lok Sabha every year from amongst its members. A minister is not eligible for election to this committee. The term of the committee is 1 year. The functions of the Committee are as follows

  • To report what economies, improvements in organization, efficiency and administrative reform consistent with the policy underlying the estimates, can be affected.
  • To suggest alternative policies in order to bring about efficiency and economy in administration.
  • To examine whether the money is well laid out within the limits of the policy implied in the estimates.
  • To suggest the form in which the estimates are to be presented to the Parliament.
  • The Committee continues the examination of the estimate from time-to-time, throughout the financial year and reports to the house as the examination proceeds. It is not incumbent on the committee to examine the entire estimates of any 1 year. The demands for grants are finally voted upon despite the fact that the committee has made no report.
  • Originally it had 25 members, but in 1956 its members were raised to 30. This committee was constituted in 1950 on the recommendation of John Mathai.
  • The Principles of proportional Representation by means of a single transferable vote is used in the election of the members. The Chairman of this Committee is appointed by the Speakers from amongst its members and he is invariably from the ruling party.

Committee on Public Undertakings

This committee was created in 1964 on the recommendations of the Krishna Menon Committee. The Committee on Public Undertakings consists of 15 members elected by the Lok Sabha, 7 members of the Rajya Sabha are also associated with it. A minister is not eligible for election to this Committee. The term of the committee is 1 year. The functions of the Committee on Public Undertaking are as follows.

  • To examine the reports and accounts of public undertakings
  • To examine the reports, if any, of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the Public Undertakings.
  • To examine, In the context of the autonomy and efficiency of the public Undertakings, whether the affairs of the Public Undertakings are being managed in accordance with sound business principles and prudent commercial practices.
  • Such other functions vested in the Committee on Public Accounts and the Committee on Estimates in relation to the Public Undertakings are not covered by clauses (a), (b) and (c) above and may be allotted to the Committee by the Speaker from time-to-time. The committee does not, however, examine matters of major Government Policy and matters of the day-to-day administration of the undertakings.
  • Originally, it had 15 members (10 from Lok Sabha and 5 from Rajya Sabha). However, its membership was raised to 22 (15 from Lok Sabha and 7 from Rajya Sabha) in 1974. The chairman of the committee is appointed by the Speaker, from amongst its members who are drawn from the Lok Sabha only.

Committee on Public Accounts

This Committee was first set up in 1921 under the provisions of the Government of India Act, 1919. This Committee consists of 22 members (15 from Lok Sabha and 7 from Rajya Sabha). A minister is not eligible for election to this committee. The term of the committee is 1 year. The main duty of the Committee is to ascertain whether the money granted by Parliament has been spent by the government ‘within the Scope of the Demand’.

The Appropriation Accounts of the Government of India and the Audit Reports presented by the Comptroller and Auditor General mainly from the basis for the examination of the Committee. The Public Accounts Committee and the Estimates Committee are complementary to each other.

While the Estimates Committee deals with the estimates of Public expenditure, the Public Accounts Committee examines mainly the accounts showing the appropriation of sums granted by the house for the expenditure of the government of India in order to ascertain the purpose for which it was granted.

As a matter of practice since 1967, a member of the opposition is being appointed as the chairman of the Public Account Committee. The public Accounts committee is not concerned with the question of policy and its findings are export facto, which means that the Committee can point out irregularities only after they have taken place.

Departmental Standing Committees

Till the  13th Lok Sabha, each standing Committee consisted of not more than 45 members, 30 to be nominated by the Speaker from amongst the members of the Lok Sabha and 15 to be nominated by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha from amongst the members of Rajya Sabha. However, with the re-structuring of DTSCs in July 2004, each DRSC consist of 31 members, 21 from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha.

The members of the Lok Sabha are nominated by the speaker from amongst its members, while the members of the Rajya Sabha are nominated by the chairman from amongst its members. A minister is not eligible to be nominated as a member of any of the standing committees. In case a member, after his nominations to any of the Standing Committee, is appointed as a minister, he then ceases to be a member of the committee.

In 2004, seven more such committees were set up, increasing their number from 17 to 24. Out of the 24, Standing Committees, 8 committees, worked under Rajya Sabha and 16 worked under the Lok Sabha.

Committee of Privileges

The work of this committee is to examine every question involving a breach of privilege of the House or of the members or if any committee thereof referred to it by the House or by the Speaker. It also determines, with references to the facts of each case, whether a breach of privilege is involved and makes suitable recommendations in its report.

Committee on Absence of Members from the Sittings of the House

This Committee considers applications from members for leave of absence from the sitting of the House and examines every case where a member has been absent for a period of 60 days or more, without permission, from the sitting of the House.

Committee on Government Assurances

This committee scrutinizes the assurances, promises, undertakings etc given by ministers from time to time and reports on the extent to which such assurances etc have been implemented and to see whether such implementation has taken place within the minimum time necessary for the purpose.

Committee on Petitions

This Committee considers and reports on petitions presented to the house. It also considers representations from various individuals, Associations etc not covered by the rules relating to petitions and gives directions for their disposal.

Committee on Private Members Bills and Resolutions

It allows time to private members’ bills and resolutions, examines their Bills, seeking to amend the Constitution before their introduction in Lok Sabha and also examines such bills where the legislative competence of the House is challenged. This constitutes 15 members including the Deputy Speaker as its chairman. The Same function in the Rajya Sabha is performed by the Business Advisory Committee of that House.

Rules Committee

It considers matters of procedure and conduct of business in the house and recommends any amendments or additions to the Rules of Procedure and conduct of Business in Lok Sabha that are considered necessary.

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