We Really Need Those Standing Committees

Economic Times, July 19, 2019

Eleven of the 22 Bills introduced in this session have been passed by both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. By recent standards, this is an extremely productive session. Even so, there has been little progress on constituting the standing committees.

As aresult, none of these Bills, including the Finance Bill, has been taken up for detailed scrutiny. In the closing week of the current session, the Treasury and Opposition benches need to work together to expedite the process for constituting the standing committees.

The process for constituting the three financial standing committees has been initiated, but there has been no progress on the department-related standing committees. As a result, the 11 Bills that have been approved by Parliament in this session have been cleared only on the basis of the debate in both houses, which are between two to five hours long depending on the subject.

Since the early 1990s, when the department-related standing committees were set up, it has been the practice to refer Bills to these respective department-related committees for a deep-dive discussion. Though the government is not obliged to accept the recommendations of the committees, these are given due consideration. The exercise makes for better legislation. Unfortunately, the standing committees have also often been used to delay Bills or meet political ends.

This needs to change. Leaders from all political parties represented in Parliament need to work together to expedite the process to set up the committees. They need to agree not to use the standing committees to derail or delay legislation.

To this end, the business advisory committee could set a time limit within which standing committees would be required to submit their report. Bypassing the process makes little sense.

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