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Roles and limitations of Select Committees

Topics Covered: Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

Roles and limitations of Select Committees:


Context:

Recently, the government pushed through two crucial agriculture Bills in Rajya Sabha, rejecting Opposition demands that they be referred to a Select Committee of Rajya Sabha.

  • Proceedings were disrupted as the Opposition protested against the fact that neither Bill had been scrutinised by a parliamentary committee.

What is a Select Committee?

This is formed for examining a particular Bill and its membership is limited to MPs from one House.

  • They are chaired by MPs from the ruling party.
  • Since Select Committees are constituted for a specific purpose, they are disbanded after their report.

Background:

Parliament scrutinises legislative proposals (Bills) in two ways:

By discussing it on the floor of the two Houses:

  • This is a legislative requirement; all Bills have to be taken up for debate.

By referring a Bill to a parliamentary committee:

  • But, since Parliament meets for 70 to 80 days in a year, there is not enough time to discuss every Bill in detail on the floor of the House. In such scenarios, the bill are referred to a parliamentary committee.
  • Referring of Bills to parliamentary committees is not mandatory.

When does a committee examine a Bill?

Bills are not automatically sent to committees for examination.

There are three broad paths by which a Bill can reach a committee. They are:

  1. When the minister piloting the Bill recommends to the House that his Bill be examined by a Select Committee of the House or a joint committee of both Houses.
  2. If the minister makes no such motion, it is up to the presiding officer of the House to decide whether to send a Bill to a departmentally related Standing Committee.
  3. Also, a Bill passed by one House can be sent by the other House to its Select Committee.

What happens after the the bill is referred to a committee?

  1. The committee undertakes a detailed examination of the Bill.
  2. It invites comments and suggestions from experts, stakeholders and citizens.
  3. The government also appears before the committee to present its viewpoint.
  4. All this results in a report that makes suggestions for strengthening the Bill.
  5. The report of the committee is of a recommendatory nature.

Time taken to submit reports:

The Bill can only progress in Parliament after the committee has submitted its report. Usually, parliamentary committees are supposed to submit their reports in three months, but sometimes it can take longer.

InstaFact:

  • In the current Lok Sabha, 17 Bills have been referred to committees.
  • In the 16th Lok Sabha (2014-19), 25% of the Bills were referred to committees, which was much lower than the 71% and 60% in the 15th and 14th Lok Sabha respectively.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Difference between Parliamentary vs Cabinet committees.
  2. Standing vs select vs finance committees.
  3. Who appoints chairperson and members of these committees?
  4. Committees exclusive to only Lok Sabha.
  5. Committees where Speaker is the chairperson.

Mains Link:

What are Parliamentary Standing committees? Why are they necessary? Discuss their roles and functions to bring out their significance.

Sources: Indian Express.