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Defence & Security
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- GS 2 || Polity || Central Government || Cabinet Committees
Why in news?
Parliamentary Standing Committee on education
Parliamentary standing committees have yet to be formed following the creation of the 17th Lok Sabha because party consultations are still ongoing. The Bills were approved without committee examination in part as a result of this. They were debated in Parliament for anywhere between two and five hours.
The Indian Parliament has increasingly used the parliamentary committee structure throughout the years. However, data and several other examples suggest that the committee system has been gradually marginalised in recent years. As a result, fundamental adjustments in the parliamentary committee structure are required in order to maintain the Parliament’s primary duty of debate, discussion, and deliberation.
The Origins and Different Types of Parliamentary Committees:
- Origin: The institution of Parliamentary Committees, like many other aspects of Indian parliamentary democracy, has its roots in the British Parliament. The first Public Accounts Committee was established in independent India in April 1950.
- Constitutional Provisions: Parliamentary committees are governed by Articles 105 (on Parliamentary privileges) and 118 (on Parliament’s authority to enact rules governing its procedure and conduct of business).
- Committee types: Most committees are standing,’ meaning they have been in existence for a long time and are normally reconstituted on an annual basis; others are’select,’ meaning they were formed for a specific reason, such as debating a specific bill.
- In 1993, 17 Departmentally-related Standing Committees (DRSCs), later increased to 24, were constituted in the Parliament.
- These committees drew members from both Houses roughly in proportion to the strength of the political parties in the Houses.
- Business Allocation: The chair may submit a topic to a parliamentary committee at her discretion, but this is normally done in cooperation with the leaders of the House parties.
- Prior to 1989, when government departments began forming their own standing committees, select committees or joint committees of the chambers were only set up to scrutinise in detail a few highly important laws, the practise of sending bills to committees on a regular basis began.
- A Few Key Finance Committees: Finance committees are seen as particularly influential because financial management is such an important weapon for Parliament’s authority over the executive.
- The Public Accounts Committee, Estimates Committee, and Committee on Public Undertakings are the three financial committees in the House of Commons.
Need of parliamentary standing committees:
- Lawmaking: Due to the vast volume of legislation, it is impossible to discuss all of the bills in depth in parliament. Committees conduct in-depth discussions and analyses of proposed legislation, ensuring that each law is beneficial to individuals.
- Challenges in policy: New policy difficulties arise as a result of disruptive changes in technology and the expansion of the economy, which necessitate the support of professionals in dealing with such situations.
- They are in charge of investigating the requests for grants made by the ministries/departments in question, as well as examining and reporting to Parliament on relevant bills, annual reports, and long-term plans.
- Consensus: Committees serve as a forum for political parties to reach an agreement. The House’s proceedings are broadcast live during sessions, and MPs are likely to keep to their party’s positions on most issues. Committees meet behind closed doors, allowing them to freely question and discuss matters before reaching a decision.
- The Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Members of the Panel of Chairmen, Chairmen of the Standing Parliamentary Committees of the Lok Sabha, Leaders of recognised parties and organisations in the Lok Sabha, and any additional members chosen by the Speaker make up this committee.
- The Speaker serves as the Committee’s ex-officio Chairman.
- Scrutiny: Our law-making method includes a provision for Bills to be submitted to a standing committee for full scrutiny before they are passed. This ensures that a Bill is thoroughly scrutinized before it is passed.
- Committee reports are typically thorough and accurate in their coverage of governance issues.
- Referred-to-committee bills are returned to the House with significant added value.
- Aside from standing committees, the Houses of Parliament form ad hoc committees to investigate and report on special topics. These committees are tasked with thoroughly analysing a Bill and reporting back to the House.
- They can also seek professional advice and elicit public opinion as part of their duty.
Importance of Parliamentary Standing Committees:
- Executive accountability: Executive accountability is ensured through parliamentary standing committees, which scrutinise public spending and numerous laws. The public accounts committee, for example, is concerned with how and why public monies are used. It examines the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India’s accounts and report, guaranteeing responsibility for any misappropriation of funds.
- Better-informed conversations: Unlike discussions in open Houses, when party positions take primacy, discussions in committee allow members to have a more substantive exchange of views. This enables them to make better policy decisions.
- Expertise: Committees allow for the use of input and proposals from a variety of experts on a given legal topic, resulting in better rules and legislation. Such expertise is incorporated into lawmaking through these panels.
- Aid to Economic Growth: The Estimates Committee examines the budget estimates in detail. It proposes different policies to improve administrative efficiency and economy.
- Scrutiny of public funds: Public money are scrutinised by public accounting committees, which examine government accounts and the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India’s report. As a result, the risk of misspending is reduced, and the government’s spending statistics are verified.
- Ensure better laws and rules: The Committee on Subordinate Legislation examines and reports to the House on the correct exercise of regulations, rules, sub-rules, bye-laws, and other powers bestowed by the Constitution within the boundaries of various articles.
- Ensure accountability: The Committee on Government Assurances examines the different assurances, promises, undertakings, and other commitments made by ministers and reports on how well they have been implemented from time to time. This ensures that the government is accountable to the people, allowing true democracy to flourish.
Issues and Relevance of committee system:
- Fewer Bills Referred: It is critical that all Bills be considered by Standing Committees prior to passage in order to strengthen the legislative process. This ensures that the law is thoroughly examined. Most developed countries’ legislatures follow this practise. There is no such rule in India that requires all bills to be referred to committees. The minister piloting the Bill usually suggests to the Speaker that a Bill be referred to the Standing Committee.
- 60 percent and 71 percent of bills were referred to committees in the 14th and 15th Lok Sabha, respectively. In the 16th Lok Sabha, this number has dropped dramatically to barely 27%. The low attendance of members at committee meetings, which has remained around 50% since 2014-15, has also been a source of worry.
- Longer Tenure for Members: The committee structure allows a smaller number of legislators to gain technical competence on a certain topic and ensure better deliberation. Members are nominated to a Standing Committee for a one-year term under the current configuration. Changing committees every year, on the other hand, defeats the goal.
- Committee Report Discussion: After comprehensive analysis and feedback from stakeholders, the committees offer various recommendations in their findings. The executive may or may not embrace these recommendations because they are advisory in nature. Furthermore, save for mentions in particular Bill discussions, the committee reports are not brought up for consideration in Parliament. A number of the committee’s recommendations have yet to be implemented or considered.
- Research Support: Technical issues are examined by committees. Quality research must be made available to members in order for them to obtain a thorough grasp of issues and, ultimately, make sound and nuanced recommendations. Committees will be able to serve as expert bodies to analyse difficult policy issues with the help of institutional research support.
First Administrative Reform Commission:
- The first ARC submitted 20 reports and 537 recommendations.
- The recommendations were made in the Official Secrets Act, Governmental Privilege in Evidence, the Oath of secrecy, exempted organizations, Central Civil Services Rules, Manual of Office Procedure, classification of information, building institutions, designating information officers and appellate authorities, organizing information and record keeping, capacity building and awareness generation, monitoring mechanism, etc.
Recommendations: 2nd ARC’s:
- The second ARC made 15 reports and gave recommendations based on the areas given to them for review.
- The commission gave almost 1500 recommendations on the reports made by it. Most of the recommendations were for the State Governments (SGs).
- The commission recommended a dual role for the district administrations: One, to act as a secretariat and executive in District Councils and the other is to act as an agency to the SGs. The recommendations fall into two groups.
- One is the changes that are necessary to make in administrative structure, their processing, and techniques to be used. The other is the work needed to be done in resolving the issues by the government.
- For implementing the recommendations of the Commission, there is a need for strong political will and adequate guidance to bring reform in the public administrative system.
- Establishing New Committees: With the rising complexity of economic and technological issues, it is necessary to establish new legislative committees. Consider the following scenario:
- The Standing Committee on National Economy will conduct economic analysis and provide resources for advisory expertise, data collection, and research facilities.
- Constitutional Amendment Bills will be scrutinised by the Standing Constitution Committee before being submitted in Parliament.
- Legislative planning will be overseen and coordinated by the Standing Committee on Legislations.
- Erstwhile Planning commission suggestion — every bill has to go through the scrutiny of PSC. More Research expert should be given
- Mandatory Discussion: Major reports from all Committees should be debated in Parliament, especially when a Committee and the government disagree.
- The PACs’ proposals should be given more weight, and they should be regarded as the nation’s “financial conscience-keepers.”
- Periodic Review: DRSCs should be examined on a regular basis, according to the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC), so that committees that have outlived their usefulness can be replaced.
- Amending Rules of Business: Apart from that, rules of procedure in both the Lok sabha and the Rajya sabha need to be amended so that all key Bills are referred to DRSCs so that DRSCs can complete the second reading stage in the Committee.
Parliament’s primary role is deliberation, debate, and reconsideration, which are hallmarks of any democratic institution. However, because Parliament deliberates on complicated issues, technical expertise is required to properly understand these issues. Parliamentary Committees assist with this by providing a platform for Members to interact with domain experts and government officials during their research. Instead of bypassing parliamentary committees, it is necessary to strengthen them for the sake of parliamentary democracy.
Mains oriented question:
The foundational pillars of Parliamentary democracy in India are Representativeness, Responsiveness, and Accountability. In this context, discuss the usefulness of Parliamentary committees. (200 words)