Question – The lack of robust investigative procedures undermines the image of Parliament as the highest legislative institutions and encourages judicial encroachment on its powers. What will be the consequences of ignoring the parliamentary standing committees set up to solve similar problems? – 17 August 2021
Answer – The lack of robust investigative procedures
The primary role of Parliament is to deliberate, discuss and reconsider the identity of any democratic institution. However, Parliament considers matters which are complex and hence require technical expertise to understand such matters in a better way. Parliamentary committees thus aid in this by providing a forum where members can engage with domain experts and government officials in the course of their studies. Parliamentary committees need to be strengthened instead of sidelined for the betterment of parliamentary democracy.
In the modern era, Parliament has to perform not only various and complex types of work, but also an enormous amount of work. Parliament has limited time to deal with this business. Therefore, the Parliament cannot consider all those legislative and other matters which come before it in depth. Therefore, a lot of the work of Parliament is dealt with by the committees of the House, which are called Parliamentary Committees. Parliamentary Committee means a committee which is appointed or elected by the House or nominated by the Speaker and acts under the direction of the Speaker and submits its report to the House or to the Speaker and the Secretariat of the Committee is public. The meeting is made available by the Secretariat.
Parliamentary Standing Committees are permanent in nature, and are appointed or elected by the House or nominated by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman, Rajya Sabha. They present their report (their report) before the Houses. As a result, it helps in the work related to various activities of the Parliament. Some of the standing committees are – Public Accounts Committee, Estimates Committee, Committee on Public Undertakings, Departmentally Related Standing Committees etc.
Despite the importance of these committees, only 25% of the bills introduced in the 16th Lok Sabha were referred to committees, while 71% and 60% of the bills were referred to them in the 15th and 14th Lok Sabha respectively. In the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha, 14 Bills were passed and none of the Bills were examined/analyzed by the Parliamentary Committee. Important Bills like RTI Amendment Bill-2019, UAPA Bill-2019 etc were passed by Standing Committees without scrutiny and critical analysis.
Effect due to passing of bills by parliamentary committees without scrutiny:
- This restricts the Parliament’s ability to scrutinize the policies of the government and makes the government less accountable in the absence of a well thought out discussion.
- Bills passed without scrutiny by standing committees may lack integrity and foresight. Such Acts may need to be amended time and again, causing unnecessary delay in the process and thereby defeating the original purpose.
- This undermines the role of the opposition (whose members are part of parliamentary committees).
- It encourages the use of other methods, such as the guillotine, repeated promulgation of ordinances, etc. to avoid scrutiny of the legislature.
- This reduces engagement with the relevant stakeholders, as committees act as a connecting link between Parliament and the people on the one hand, and the administration and Parliament on the other.
It hinders financial prudence. Committees ensure economy and efficiency in public expenditure, as more attention is paid by the Ministries/Departments while formulating their demands.