Standing committees are becoming irrelevant: Opposition

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The Hindu Business Line, May 05, 2015

Is the Narendra Modi government bypassing Parliament standing committees in the process of law-making? The government may deny it, but the Opposition thinks otherwise.

Opposition parties claim that out of the 51 new Bills and Ordinances brought by the new government in the last one year, just eight have been sent to any standing committee.

The Opposition cites several Bills, including the GST Bill, Land Acquisition Bill, the Mines and Minerals Bill and the Coal Bill, which were not sent to any department-related standing committee. The last two Bills were sent to a select committee of the Rajya Sabha, but it got only a week?s time for discussions.

?Look at the Lokpal Bill. It had also gone to a select committee. But we had at least 30 sittings and meetings with about 100 stakeholders before taking a final view on the legislation. This government is killing Parliament democracy in a systematic way. They are promoting a sort of Presidential style of governance, where the Prime Minister?s Office is the key decision-making body,? said KN Balagopal, CPI (M) MP in the Rajya Sabha.

The view is shared by Bhartruhari Mahtab of the Biju Janata Dal. ?When Veerappa Moily, the then Corporate Affairs Minister, made a number of substantial changes to the Companies Bill, cleared by the Finance Standing Committee headed by Yashwant Sinha, we insisted that the Bill should go again to the panel. The government accepted our demand and we could improve the Bill after deliberations in the panel. These panels gave us an opportunity to be part of the law-making process,? Mahtab said. Public Accounts Committee chairperson KV Thomas, too, is unhappy with the government?s ?apathy? towards standing committees. ?When I first came to Parliament in 1984, demands for grants were discussed in Parliament. We had no time to go into the details. Standing committees were formed to ensure a proper debate and are considered as mini-Parliament. But after the last two Budgets, I do not think such discussions have happened as this government does not cooperate with the committees,? he added.

The Warehousing Corporations (Amendment) Bill, the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill, the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill and the Regional Rural Banks (Amendment) Bill are some of the Bills that have not been sent to the standing committees and should have ideally gone to the panels on Food, Home, Roads and Highways before getting passed in either of the Houses.

The issue was earlier raised by the Congress, too. ?It is a question of privilege of this House (Parliament). The Standing Committees are elected committees. If the Bills are not going to the Standing Committees for scrutiny, what does the government propose to do with the Standing Committees?? asked Congress leader Anand Sharma.

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