Demands for Grants, Finance Bill may escape scrutiny of Parliamentary panels

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The Hindu Business Line, July 14, 2019

Almost half of the budgetary exercise is over, but Parliament is yet to see formation of department-related standing committees (DRSC). This means Demands for Grants and the Finance Bill will not be vetted by DRSCs as of now.

The Lok Sabha is scheduled to take up the Finance Bill for consideration and passage during the week starting July 15. There will also be discussions and voting on Demands for Grants for 2019-20 of three ministries — Road Transport and Highways, Rural Development and Agriculture and Farmers Welfare and Youth Affairs and Sports.

After this, there will be ‘guillotining’ of Demands for Grants of all other Ministries.

Then the government will move the Appropriation Bill to seek approval for withdrawing money from the Consolidated Fund of India. Once the process is over in Lok Sabha, each one of them will be taken up by Rajya Sabha which is required to return within 14 days.

Finally, the President will give his assent marking the end of budgetary exercise. The entire process has to be completed by July 31.

Senior Parliamentarians told BusinessLine that even in 2014, the entire budgetary exercise was completed without vetting by DRSCs and now in 2019 this is set to happen.

“Post this ongoing session, as soon as the Committees are formed, they can take up Demands for Grants and submit their reports during the winter session of Parliament,” said one Parliamentarian, who was elected for third time, and also a member of House committee for Ministry of Finance in the 16th Lok Sabha.

Time limitation

An introduction to the committees, as published by Lok Sabha, says that considering time limit , Parliament cannot give a close consideration of all the legislative and other matters that come up before it.

A good deal of its business is, therefore, transacted in committees of the House, known as Parliamentary Committees. By their nature, these committees are of two kinds: Standing Committees and Ad hoc Committees. Standing Committees are permanent and regular committees and the work of them is of continuous nature.

The Financial Committees, DRSCs and some other committees come under the category of Standing Committees. Ad hoc Committees are appointed for a specific purpose and they cease to exist when they finish the task assigned to them and submit a report.

There are 24 DRSCs covering under their jurisdiction all the Ministries/Departments of the Government of India. Each of these committees consists of 31 members — 21 from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha to be nominated by Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha Chairman, respectively.

The term of office of these committees does not exceed one year.

Sixteen of the committees are under Lok Sabha, while the remaining are with Rajya Sabha.

According to procedures, these committees consider Demands for Grants and make a report thereon to Houses, after the general discussion on the Budget in the Houses is over, and the Houses are adjourned for a fixed period.

Since Lok Sabha — neither during Budget session nor ongoing monsoon session — went for recess, so technically there is no problem in the present scenario.

Another senior Parliamentarian hoped that DRSCs will be formed before the last day of the ongoing session, i.e. July 26.

Once they are formed, it is the prerogative of the Speaker to refer any legislation for further deliberation. The report of a DRSC has persuasive value and is treated as considered advice.

However, suggestions, contained in the report, are not binding on the government.

This news can also be viewed at: https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/

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