Parliament and its many panels
Indian Express, December 29, 2015
What is a
standing committee? How is it different from a select committee?
And why do Bills get sent to them?
On December 22,
while moving the ?Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2015 Bill? in
the Lok Sabha, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said it was
an important piece of legislation and it should not ?go from
committee to committee? as the ?country cannot wait? for
reforms. While parties such as the BJD and Trinamool
Congresswanted the Bill to be sent to a parliamentary standing
committee, Jaitley said he was willing to refer it to a joint
committee of Parliament. The same day, in the Rajya Sabha, as
members discussed the Juvenile Justice Bill, the Left parties,
DMK and NCP wanted the Bill to be referred to a select
parliamentary committees and what do they do?
A lot of parliamentary business gets done in these committees,
away from both Houses. The popular perception, that MPs work
only when Parliament is in session (three sessions in a year),
is a bit uncharitable. Every member of the House is a member of
one of the parliamentary committees. The members of these
committees discuss every Bill that is referred to them
different parliamentary committees?
Broadly, they are of two kinds: ad hoc committees and the
permanent committees. Ad hoc committees are appointed for a
specific purpose and cease to exist when they finish the task
assigned to them and submit a report. The principal ad hoc
committees are the select and joint committees. There are some
other ad hoc committees too, but they handle different issues
such as privileges, ethics, security, government assurances and
has permanent committees called the standing committees. Most
Bills, after their introduction, get referred to
department-related standing committees, which are permanent and
regular bodies. There are 24 standing committees, each dealing
with specific subjects such as commerce, home affairs, HRD,
defence, health etc. Each standing committee has 31 members ? 21
from the Lok Sabha and 10 from the Rajya Sabha ? nominated by
the Speaker and the Chairman. Their term lasts a year. The idea
behind these committees, first set up in 1993, is that with
Parliament working for a limited days in a year, Bills, which
deal with technical and policy matters, need to be discussed in
detail, after taking the view of diverse stakeholders and
experts. While referring a Bill to a standing committee, the
Chairman or the Speaker may specify the time within which it has
to submit its report. The joint committees and standing
committees become defunct after the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.
A Bill, which has
already been referred to a standing committee and passed by one
House may be referred to a select committee by another House.
That?s what happened in the case of the GST Bill. After it was
cleared by the empowered committee of state finance ministers,
it went to the Lok Sabha, where it was passed, and then, to the
Rajya Sabha. The Upper House referred the Bill to a select
committee. The report of the select committee is out but the
Congress has come up with three objections. That?s where it
Who sets up these
They are appointed or elected by either or both the Houses or
nominated by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the
Rajya Sabha or both. The committees present their reports to the
Houses or their presiding officers or their secretariats.
When is a Bill referred to a select committee?
Under Rule 125 of
the Rajya Sabha Rules and Procedures, any member may move, as an
amendment, that a Bill be referred to a select committee and, if
the motion is carried, the Bill is referred to such a committee.
after a Bill is referred to a committee?
The committee may invite written representations from the
public, interested groups and organisations. It may ask
government officials for details of policy considerations behind
each clause of the Bill or any other information. After hearing
and examining the evidence, the chairman puts the Bill before
the members and invites their suggestions and amendments on
every clause. The committee then formulates its conclusions and
if needed, amends it. The minister and government officials
concerned attend the meetings of the committee. The committee
cannot alter the scope of the Bill or change it to the extent of
rendering it contrary to the principle of the Bill referred to
it. However, these committees do have very wide-ranging powers
and there are instances of committees redrafting a Bill or even
changing its title.
Can a Bill go
back to a committee?
The House concerned or both Houses will consider the report
of the select committee or the joint committee. They can
re-commit the Bill to the same committee or to a new committee
with the concurrence of the other House.
after the report of a select or a joint committee is submitted
to the House?
After the report is submitted in the House, the member in-charge
may make a motion that the Bill, as reported by the committee,
be taken up for clause-by-clause consideration. In the case of a
report of a standing committee, there is no such motion. The
reason is that the report of the standing committee ?is based on
a broad consensus and has persuasive value to be treated as
considered advice?. It is for the minister in-charge of the Bill
or any member to move necessary amendments in the House in the
light of the recommendations or suggestions made by the
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