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Role of Parliamentary committees
News: Parliamentary committees refer to the panels made up of MPs that are constituted to delve deeper into matters of public concern and develop an expert opinion.
What are Parliamentary committees in India?
A committee appointed/elected by the House or nominated by the Speaker of Lok Sabha (LS) or the Chairman of Rajya Sabha (RS) and has a secretariat provided by the LS/RS.
They work under the direction of the Speaker/Chairman, presenting their report to the House or to the Speaker/Chairman.
The consultative committees, which also consist of members of Parliament, are not parliamentary committees as they do not fulfill certain requirements as mentioned above.
Parliamentary committees draw their authority from Article 105 (on privileges of Parliament members) and Article 118 (on Parliament’s authority to make rules for regulating its procedure and conduct of business).
1. Standing Committees(Permanent, constituted every year)
o Financial Committees (Public Accounts Committee)
o Departmental Standing Committees
o Committees to Enquire (Committee on Petition)
2. Ad-Hoc Committees (Temporary)
o Joint Parliamentary Commitee
What is the role of Parliamentary Committees?
They delve deeper into the details of a specific piece of legislation and analyse its potential impact on governance indicators and then make their recommendations (However, recommendations are not binding on the government).
They act as a mini-parliament as they have MP’s representing different parties who are elected into them through a system of the single transferable vote, in roughly the same proportion as their strength in Parliament.
They ensure an oversight on the executive as the government is required to table an ‘Action Taken’ report for the House to judge the progress made on the suggestions of the committee.
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.
As the discussions are closed-door and away from the public eye, the committee meetings are also more collaborative, with MPs feeling less pressured to posture for media galleries.
They enable day-to-day functioning of Parliament in session. For example, the Business Advisory Committee prepares the entire schedule of both Houses when Parliament is in session.
Importance of PSC can be observed based on the comprehensive work that has been seen in as far as Digital Data protection bill is concerned. For example, Right from The Puttaswamy judgement (2017) to the constitution of Justice Srikrishna Committee to the introduction of The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 and the role of A Joint Parliamentary Committee which has led to the New Draft Digital Data Protection Bill, 2022.
What are the challenges observed recently?
During the course of the 17th Lok Sabha, only 14 Bills have been referred for further examination so far.
As per data from PRS, as little as 25% of the Bills introduced were referred to committees in the 16th Lok Sabha, as compared to 71% and 60% in the 15th and 14th Lok Sabha, respectively.
The declining trend of national legislation being subjected to expert scrutiny.
Political enmity and stalling of proceedings in the house as recently seen in Budget session (2023) of 17th Lok Sabha.
What is the way forward?
Strengthen the role of parliamentary committees by giving them more resources, powers, and authority to hold the executive accountable.
Involve Civil society, experts and all stakeholders in committee proceedings to ensure diverse perspectives. For example, participation of traders, businessmen and stakeholders was noteworthy during implementation of GST.
The Parliament may also consider a compulsory referral (like the US) for the Bills that are tabled on the floor.
Develop a culture of bipartisan consensus-building within committees.