Types of Parliamentary Committees and Their Roles
Parliamentary Committees are an essential component of the parliamentary form of governance in India. They provide valuable support to the legislature in the discharge of its duties and share a substantial amount of their workload. Their support includes supervision, control, and vigilance besides reducing the workload of the legislature. The committees also provide a better insight into the issues in discussion and conduct detailed scrutiny and analysis; they are a form of aid to the Parliament
Parliamentary Committees can be categorised into two groups, they are as follows:
- Standing Committees: The Standing Committees are permanent committees, they are formed according to Acts of Parliament. They work continuously and regularly.
- Ad hoc Committees: The Ad hoc parliamentary committees on the other hand are appointed only to look into specific issues, and they are dissolved when the purpose is fulfilled.
The Standing Committees are further divided into six categories based on the functions:
1. Financial Committees
The Public Accounts Committee, Estimate Committee, and the Committee on Public Undertakings together constitute the financial committees. These are the most important parliamentary committees in India.
- Public Accounts Committee (PAC): PAC is the oldest financial committee of India; set up in 1921. The function of the committee is to examine the annual audit reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) which are submitted before the Parliament by the President. The Committee also makes recommendations if the money spent in a financial year is more than the amount approved. The CAG helps the PAC in the fulfillment of these duties. The membership of PAC consists of 22 members (15 from Lok Sabha and 7 from Rajya Sabha) elected by the two houses for a one-year term. The Chairman of the committee is appointed by the speaker from the opposition party.
- Estimates Committee: This committee was set up for the first time in 1950. This Committee makes a detailed examination of the annual budget estimates to report the efficiency of the existing economic policies; it also suggests alternative policies to bring in reform. It also examines whether the money laid out is within the approved limits of the policy. This committee consists of 30 members who are elected from the Lok Sabha only for a period of one year. The Chairman of the Committee is appointed from the ruling party by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
- Committee on Public Undertakings: It was created in 1964, in accordance with the recommendation of the Krishna Menon Committee. This committee examines and scrutinizes the reports of the Public Undertakings and analysis the reports of the CAG on public undertakings. It also ensures whether the public undertakings carry on their business ethically and morally. The membership of this committee consists of 22 members (15 from the Lok Sabha and 7 from the Rajya Sabha). The members are elected by the two houses, for a one-year term, and the chairman of the committee is appointed by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
2. Departmental Related Standing Committees
At present, the number of Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committees is 24 out of which 16 are under the jurisdiction of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the rest 8 within the jurisdiction of the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. Each Standing Committee has a membership of 31 members, of which 21 are members of the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha nominated by the Speaker and Chairman of the respective Houses. Their term of office shall not exceed a year. The 24 Standing Committees cover under its purview all the ministries/departments of the central government. Ministers are not a part of these committees, key committees like those of Finance, Defense, Home are usually chaired by Opposition MP’s. These committees consider the Demands for Grants. They also examine Bills referred by the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha or the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. They also play a role in the consideration of the Annual reports.
3. Committees to Inquire
This committee can be divided into three categories.
- Committee on Petitions: This Committee examines all the petitions referred to it and also reports on specific complaints and suggests remedial measures.
- Committee of Privilege: They examine issues relating to the violation of privilege either of the House or the members of any committee. They also look into specific situations to analyse the violation of privilege and suggest recommendations accordingly.
- Committee on Ethics: They oversee the moral and ethical conduct of members.
4. Committee to scrutinize and control
Six types of committees are placed under this category.
- Committee on government assurances: They scrutinize the commitments and promises, made by Ministers from time to time and also ensure their smooth delivery by the ministers.
- Committee on subordinate Legislation: This committee scrutinizes and reports to the legislature whether the executive is utilizing its powers of making rules and laws efficiently which have been conferred to it by the constitution and delegated by the Parliament.
- Committee on Papers laid on the table: the role of this committee is to scrutinize papers laid down by the ministers.
- Committee on the welfare of SC’s and ST’s: It considers the reports of the National Commission for SC’s and National Commission for ST’s.
- Committee on Empowerment of Women: They analyse and scrutinize the reports of the National Commission for Women.
- Joint Committee on Offices of Profit: This parliamentary committee examines the composition and nature of committees and bodies, also ensures the eligibility of people in a position in these organizations.
5. Committees relating to the day-to-day business of the house
There are four categories of committees.
- Business Advisory Committee: It manages the time slots of the House, and introduces particular subjects for discussion.
- Committee on Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions: The main function of this committee is to assign time slots to private members to present their bills and resolutions before the House.
- Rules Committee: It looks after the proper conduct of the business in the House and ensures that Rules of Procedure are upheld. It also makes necessary amendments wherever necessary.
- Committee on the absence of members: It examines the leave application of the members of the Houses.
6. Service Committees or Housekeeping Committees
These committees are concerned with the Provision of Facilities and Services to the members.
- General Purposes Committee: This committee takes up issues that do not fall under the purview of any other Parliamentary Committee.
- House Committee: The facilities that are given to the members of the House, for instance, medical aid, food, etc. are looked after by this committee.
- Library Committee: The library of the House and the facilities attached to it are managed by this Committee.
- Joint Committee on Salaries and Allowances of Members: This committee looks after the salaries and allowances of the members of the House.
There are two types of ad-hoc committees. They are temporary, and they cease to exist once their purpose is fulfilled.
- Inquiry Committees: These committees can be proposed by either of the two houses to probe an inquiry into a matter. It can be appointed by the speaker/chairman of the respective houses.
- Advisory Committees: These committees report on particular bills. Select or Joint committees on bills are included in these committees. They follow a procedure distinct from the Inquiry Committees, as the procedure to be followed by them is laid down in the Rules of Procedure and the Directions provided by the speaker/chairman. Whenever a particular Bill is introduced in any House, the House refers it to the Select Committee to study the Bill clause by clause.
Parliamentary Committees are an essential component of the Indian parliamentary system. They provide better analysis and scrutiny of important issues These Parliamentary Committees play an important role in influencing the policies of the government and also act as an interface between the government and the people. Most importantly, it makes the executive accountable to the legislature.