Parliamentary Committee in India
The committees of the Parliament in India are of two types—standing committees and ad-hoc committees. The Indian Standing Committees are like the U. S. congressional committees, specialized in nature i. e. they perform specialized jobs as suggested by their names. The ad-hoc committees are non-specialized, like the British Standing Committees. These committees are appointed ad-hoc and cease to exist as soon as they complete their work. They are known as select committees. A committee may be their joint committee of the two Houses or a committee of a single House.
The crucial standing committees which between them keep a vigil on Government’s financial activities are (a) Public Accounts Committee, the Estimates Committee and the Committee on Public Undertakings.
Public Accounts Committee, consisting of 15 members of the Lok Sabha and 7 associate members of the Rajya Sabha, without the right to vote, scrutinizes the expenditures of the Government. It is presided over by convention, by a member of opposition and is assisted by the Auditor and Comptroller General of India. Life of the committee is one year. The function of this committee is to bring to the notice of the Parliament and through it, of the nation, cases of in fructuous, wasteful and irregular expenditures incurred by the Government. Naturally the committee is dreaded by the Government. The Estimates Committee scrutinizes the proposed expenditures of the Government as the P.A.C. scrutinizes the incurred expenditures. The two naturally are complementary to each other. Like the P.A.C. it is also a committee elected for one year. The committee consists of 30 members elected from the Lok Sabha. Its principal function is to scrutinize estimate of expenditures submitted by different departments of Government. It also suggests economies to be effected in Government expenditures.
The Committee on Public Undertaking is a committee of 15 members 10 elected from the Lok Sabha and 5 from the Rajya Sabha all on proportional representation and single transferable vote system. Its function is to scrutinize the accounts and activities of Public Undertakings in which nearly 39,000 crores of rupees have been invested till now.
Committees of the Lok Sabha
Besides the above mentioned committees, the Lok Sabha alone has 12 other committees. The Rajya Sabha has its own counter parts of these committees.
(a) The foremost is the Business Advisory Committee. Each Lok Sabha, at its beginning forms this committee of 14 members. The committee is presided over by the Speaker. Its main function is to plan orderly conduct of the business of the House. It allocates time to different bills and to different parties and Speakers. To smoothen work, leaders of all important parties and groups are associated with this committee. Even then, the House finds it difficult to stick to the time table as the debates grow acrimonious and the House often becomes unruly.
(b) Select Committees are employed by both the Houses to inject expertness into bills and to save Parliamentary time. Select Committees are non-specialized, non-permanent committees–and their number also is not fixed. A select committee is formed whenever the House resolves to refer a bill to a select committee. Such a resolution is adopted after the Second Reading i.e. after the House has accepted the bill in principle. The members of the select committee are appointed by the House and its Chairman by the Speaker. A select committee is created to scrutinize, and to suggest amendments to a bill. It goes out of existence after it reports back to the House. The select committees are the only ones dealing with legislation, the primary business of the House. All other committees are so to say engaged in House-keeping.
(c) The committee on private members bills of 15 members receives notice of bills from private members. The Deputy Speaker is the Chairman of the committee. The committee examines private member’s bills and makes its recommendations about the importance of the bill.
(d) The Rules Committee nominated and presided over by the Speaker is supplementary to the Business Advisory Committee. It examines existing rules and suggests new rules for the smooth conduct of business of the House.
(e) A very powerful committee is the Privilege Committee of the House. Its 15 members are appointed by the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker is its Chairman. This committee is watchdog of the privileges of the House and its members. The committee examines breaches of privileges and reports to the House.
(f) The committee on petitions, consisting of 15 members examines petitions on bills and on matters of public interest. This may as well be called t committee on public grievances. Unfortunately in India, people seldom make use of this committee.
(g) The committee on Subordinate Legislation, of 15 members— all nominated by the Speaker, is a very important committee dealing with a very crucial legislative development of modern times. For lack of time and expertness, modern legislatures pass laws in skeletons leaving the detailed rules to be framed by executive departments. These are known as delegated legislation. The committee on subordinate legislation oversees the working of delegated legislation. The function of this committee is to see that the executive does not overstep its bounds and does not usurp the legislative authority of the Parliament. The committee prevents the “New Despotism” of the executive branch of the Government.
(h) The committee on Government Assurances of 15 members appointed by the Speaker examines the assurances given by ministers on the floor of the House. Its only function is to see that the government assurances are fully implemented.
Besides these, the committee on absence from the Sittings of the House, the Joint Committee on Salaries and Allowances of Members of the Parliament and the House Committee dealing with residential accommodation, medical aid and other amenities etc. are some other committees of the House.
The Parliament also appoints and uses ad-hoc committees to deal with specific subjects. Thus Parliamentary investigative committees are appointed to enquire into charges of corruption or malpractices. Such committees die the moment they report back to the Parliament.
Finally consultative committees are constituted to help formulation and implementation of policies for different departments and ministries. The consultative committees provide the forum where intimate interchange of views takes place between the minister and the leaders of the opposition. These exchanges in a tension-free atmosphere are of immense value to the working of the Parliament.