Parliamentary Committees

GS 2- POLITY: Parliament-parliamentary committees

Introduction 

A parliamentary system or parliamentary democracy is a system of democratic governance of a state where the executive derives its democratic legitimacy from its ability to command the confidence of the legislature and is held accountable to that parliament.

Parliamentary Committees system in Indian Parliament:

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  • 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.
  • The political culture or even the Gandhian idea of swaraj that were construed as not easily amenable to forge representative institutions characteristic of parliamentary democracy.
  • Over the years, the Indian Parliament has increasingly taken recourse to the committee system.
    • meant for housekeeping.
    • to enhance the efficacy of the House to cope with the technical issues confronting it.
    • to feel the public pulse.
    • to guard its turf.
    • keep it abreast to exercise accountability on the government.
  • Some committees such as the Estimates Committee and Public Accounts Committee have a commendable record in this regard.
    • The executive in independent India, irrespective of the parties in power.
    • sometimes on the specious plea that they usurped the powers of Parliament.
  • Officialdom in India has often attempted to take cover under political masters to avoid the scrutiny of committees.
  • Besides the standing committees, the Houses of Parliament set up, from time to time.
  • ad hoc committees to enquire and report on specific subjects
    • Select Committees of a House or Joint Select committees of both the Houses that are assigned the task of studying a Bill closely and reporting back to the House.

Importance of Parliamentary committees:

  • are smaller units of MPs from both Houses, across political parties.
  • they function throughout the year.
    • are assigned the task of looking into the demands for grants of the ministries/departments concerned.
    • to consider their annual reports.
    • to look into their long-term plans and report to Parliament.
  • not bound by the populistic demands that generally act as hindrance in working of parliament.
  • members are not bound by party whips.
  • work on the ethos of debate and discussions.
  • work away from the public glare.
  • remain informal compared to the codes that govern parliamentary proceedings.
  • are training schools for new and young members of the House.
  • considerable amount of legislative work gets done in these smaller units of MPs from both Houses, across political parties.

Data:

  • 60% of the Bills in the 14th Lok Sabha and 71% in the 15th Lok Sabha were wetted by the DRSCs concerned.
  • came down to 27% in the 16th Lok Sabha.(by PRS India)
    • have been confined to the margins or left in the lurch in the last few years.
    • the government has shown extreme reluctance to refer Bills to Select Committees of the Houses or Joint Parliamentary Committees.
      • Eg:-radical overhaul of Article 370 that revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and divided the State into two Union Territories were not processed by any House committee.

Contemporary Issues:

  • One of the reasons given at this point in time is the novel coronavirus pandemic and the urgent need to enact safety measures.
  • argument of urgency seems spurious given the fact that some of the most controversial Bills introduced in the House.
    • Bills relating to labour and the farm sector, were vehemently opposed by the groups concerned and clearly aimed at market reforms.
    • If it is urgency, then the Women’s Reservation Bill, on which there was a broad consensus in the House, should have come up upfront.
  • no dearth of scholarly literature to suggest that the committee system has greatly enhanced the capacity of Parliament to carry out its mandate.
  • this regime is not disposed to a reflection and reconsideration of Bills proposed in the House.

      In most of the Committees, public is directly or indirectly associated when memoranda containing suggestions are received.

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