In the backdrop of a number of bills having been passed without much scrutiny in the parliament, examine the necessity of Parliamentary standing committees. Do you think they are not able to realize their expected potential?
Primary role of Parliament is deliberation, discussion and reconsideration, the hallmarks of any democratic institution. As the Parliament need technical expertise to understand such matters better deliberates on matters that are complex, Parliamentary Committees help with this by providing a forum where Members can engage with domain experts and government officials during the course of their study.
Necessity of Parliamentary standing committees
- Committee reports are usually exhaustive and provide authentic information on matters related to governance.
- Bills that are referred to committees are returned to the House with significant value addition. Parliament is not bound by the recommendations of committees.
- Standing committees form an integral part of Parliament’s role in the debate. They discuss laws and policies by analysing them in-depth. They are composed of members from both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
- Additionally, standing committees provide a platform for MPs to track government expenditure, scrutinise policies and bills and seek expert advice.
- Due to the untelevised nature of committee meetings, they are also used as a forum for consensus-building among parties for controversial issues or contentious pieces of legislation.
- The committees perform their functions without the cloud of political positioning and populist opinion.
- These committees allow the views of diverse stakeholders.
Backdrops in Parliamentary committees and suggestions:
- As the Parliamentary committees don’t have dedicated subject-wise research support available, the knowledge gap is partially bridged by expert testimony from government and other stakeholders.
- So, their work could be made more effective if the committees had full-time, sector-specific research staff.
- The national commission to review the working of the Constitution has recommended that in order to strengthen the committee system, research support should be made available to them.
- Currently, the rules of Parliament don’t require every bill to be referred to a parliamentary committee for scrutiny. While this allows the government greater flexibility and the ability to speed up legislative business, it comes at the cost of ineffective scrutiny by the highest law-making body.
- Mandatory scrutiny of all bills by parliamentary committees would ensure better planning of legislative business.
There is a need to strengthen the parliamentary committees rather than bypassing them for the betterment of the parliamentary democracy.