On the recommendation of the Rules Committee of the Lok Sabha, 17 Departmentally-Related Standing Committees (DRSCs) were set up in the Parliament in 1993 In 2004, seven more such committees were setup, thus increasing their number from 17 to 24.
The main objective of the standing committees is to secure more accountability of the Executive (i.e., the Council of Ministers) to the Parliament, particularly financial accountability. They also assist the Parliament in debating the budget more effectively.
The 24 standing committees cover under their jurisdiction all the ministries / departments of the Central Government.
Each standing committee consists of 31 members (21 from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha). The members of the Lok Sabha are nominated by the Speaker from amongst its own members, just as the members of the Rajya Sabha are nominated by the Chairman from amongst its members.
A minister is not eligible to be nominated as a member of any of the standing committees. In case a member, after his nomination to any of the standing committees, is appointed a minister, he then ceases to be a member of the committee.
The term of office of each standing committee is one year from the date of its constitution.
Out of the 24 standing committees, 8 work under the Rajya Sabha and 16 under the Lok Sabha.
The functions of each of the standing committees are:
1. To consider the demands for grants of the concerned ministries / departments before they are discussed and voted in the Lok Sabha. Its report should not suggest anything of the nature of cut motions
2. To examine bills pertaining to the concerned ministries / departments
3. To consider annual reports of ministries / departments
4. To consider national basic long-term policy documents presented to the Houses
The following limitations are imposed on the functioning of these standing committees:
(i) They should not consider the matters of day-to-day administration of the concerned ministries / departments.
(ii) They should not generally consider the matters which are considered by other parliamentary committees.
It should be noted here that the recommendations of these committees are advisory in nature and hence not binding on the Parliament.
The following procedure shall be followed by each of the standing committees in their consideration of the demands for grants, and making a report thereon to the Houses.
(a) After general discussion on the budget in the Houses is over, the Houses shall be adjourned for a fixed period.
(b) The committees shall consider the demands for grants of the concerned ministries during the aforesaid period.
(c) The committees shall make their report within the period and shall not ask for more time.
(d) The demands for grants shall be considered by the House in the light of the reports of the committees.
(e) There shall be a separate report on the demands for grants of each ministry.
The following procedure shall be followed by each of the standing committees in examining the bills and making report thereon.
(a) The committee shall consider the general principles and clauses of bills referred to it.
(b) The Committee shall consider only such bills as introduced in either of the Houses and referred to it.
(c) The Committee shall make report on bills in a given time.
The merits of the standing committee system in the Parliament are:
(1) Their proceedings are devoid of any party bias.
(2) The procedure adopted by them is more flexible than in the Lok Sabha.
(3) The system makes parliamentary control over executive much more detailed, close, continuous, in-depth and comprehensive.
(4) The system ensures economy and efficiency in public expenditure as the ministries / departments would now be more careful in formulating their demands.
(5) They facilitate opportunities to all the members of Parliament to participate and understand the functioning of the government and contribute to it.
(6) They can avail of expert opinion or public opinion to make the reports. They are authorised to invite experts and eminent persons to testify before them and incorporate their opinions in their reports.
(7) The opposition parties and the Rajya Sabha can now play a greater role in exercising financial control over the executive.
COMMITTEES TO INQUIRE
Committee on Petitions
This committee examines petitions on bills and on matters of general public importance. It also entertains representations from individuals and associations on matters pertaining to Union subjects. The Lok Sabha committee consists of 15 members, while the Rajya Sabha committee consists of 10 members.
Committee of Privileges
The functions of this committee are semi-judicial in nature. It examines the cases of breach of privileges of the House and its members and recommends appropriate action. The Lok Sabha committee has 15 members, while the Rajya Sabha committee has 10 members.
This committee was constituted in Rajya Sabha in 1997 and in Lok Sabha in 2000. It enforces the code of conduct of members of Parliament. It examines the cases of misconduct and recommends appropriate action. Thus, it is engaged in maintaining discipline and decorum in Parliament.
COMMITTEES TO SCRUTINISE AND CONTROL Committee on Government Assurances
This committee examines the assurances, promises and undertakings given by ministers from time to time on the floor of the House and reports on the extent to which they have been carried through. In the Lok Sabha, it consists of 15 members and in the Rajya Sabha, it consists of 10 members. It was constituted in 1953.
Committee on Subordinate Legislation
This committee examines and reports to the House whether the powers to make regulations, rules, sub-rules and bye-laws delegated by the Parliament or conferred by the Constitution to the Executive are being properly exercised by it. In both the Houses, the committee consists of 15 members. It was constituted in 1953.
Committee on Papers Laid on the Table
This committee was constituted in 1975. The Lok Sabha Committee has 15 members, while the Rajya Sabha Committee has 10 members. It examines all papers laid on the table of the House by ministers to see whether they comply with provisions of the Constitution, or the related Act or Rule. It does not examine statutory notifications and orders that fall under the jurisdiction of the Committee on Subordinate Legislation.
Committee on Welfare of SCs and STs
This committee consists of 30 members (20 from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha). Its functions are: (i) to consider the reports of the National Commission for the SCs and the National Commission for the STs; (ii) to examine all matters relating to the welfare of SCs and STs, like implementation of constitutional and statutory safeguards, working of welfare programmes, etc.
Committee on Empowerment of Women
This committee was constituted in 1997 and consists of 30 members (20 from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha). It considers the reports of the National Commission for Women and examines the measures taken by the Union Government to secure status, dignity and equality for women in all fields.
Joint Committee on Offices of Profit
This committee examines the composition and character of committees and other bodies appointed by the Central, state and union territory governments and recommends whether persons holding these offices should be disqualified from being elected as members of Parliament or not. It consists of 15 members (10 from Lok Sabha and 5 from Rajya Sabha).
COMMITTEES RELATING TO THE DAY-TO-DAY BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE
Business Advisory Committee
This committee regulates the programme and time table of the House. It allocates time for the transaction of legislative and other business brought before the House by the government. The Lok Sabha committee consists of 15 members including the Speaker as its chairman. In the Rajya Sabha, it has 11 members including the Chairman as its ex-officio chairman.
Committee on Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions
This committee classifies bills and allocates time for the discussion on bills and resolutions introduced by private members (other than ministers). This is a special committee of the Lok Sabha and consists of 15 members including the Deputy Speaker as its chairman. The Rajya Sabha does not have any such committee. The same function in the Rajya Sabha is performed by the Business Advisory Committee of that House.
This committee considers the matters of procedure and conduct of business in the House and recommends necessary amendments or additions to the rules of the House. The Lok Sabha committee consists of 15 members including the Speaker as its ex-officio chairman. In the Rajya Sabha, it consists of 16 members including the Chairman as its ex-officio chairman.
Committee on Absence of Members
This committee considers all applications from members for leave of absence from the sittings of the House, and examines the cases of members who have been absent for a period of 60 days or more without permission. It is a special committee of the Lok Sabha and consists of 15 members. There is no such committee in the Rajya Sabha and all such matters are dealt by the House itself.
HOUSE-KEEPING COMMITTEES General
This committee considers and advises on matters concerning affairs of the House, which do not fall within the jurisdiction of any other parliamentary committee. In each House, this committee consists of the presiding officer (Speaker / Chairman) as its ex-officio chairman, Deputy Speaker (Deputy Chairman in the case of Rajya Sabha), members of panel of chairpersons (panel of vice-chairpersons in the case of Rajya Sabha), chairpersons of all the departmental standing committees of the House, leaders of recognised parties and groups in the House and such other members as nominated by the presiding officer.
This committee deals with residential accommodation of members and other amenities like food, medical aid, etc., accorded to them in their houses and hostels in Delhi. Both the Houses have their respective House Committees. In the Lok Sabha, it consists of 12 members.
This committee considers all matters relating to library of the Parliament and assists the members in utilising the library’s services. It consists of nine members (six from Lok Sabha and three from Rajya Sabha).
Joint Committee on Salaries and Allowances of Members
This committee was constituted under the Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament Act, 1954. It consists of 15 members (10 from Lok Sabha and 5 from Rajya Sabha). It frames rules for regulating payment of salary, allowances and pension to members of Parliament.
Consultative committees are attached to various ministries / departments of the Central Government. They consist of members of both the Houses of Parliament. The Minister / Minister of State in charge of the Ministry concerned acts as the chairman of the consultative committee of that ministry.
These committees provide a forum for informal discussions between the ministers and the members of Parliament on policies and programmes of the government and the manner of their implementation.
These committees are constituted by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs. The guidelines regarding the composition, functions and procedures of these committees are formulated by this Ministry. The Ministry also makes arrangements for holding their meetings both during the session and the intersession period of Parliament.
The membership of these committees is voluntary and is left to the choice of the members and the leaders of their parties. The maximum membership of a committee is 30 and the minimum is 10.
These committees are normally constituted after the new Lok Sabha is constituted, after General Elections for the Lok Sabha. In other words, these committees shall stand dissolved upon dissolution of every Lok Sabha and shall be reconstituted upon constitution of each Lok Sabha10.
In addition, separate Informal Consultative Committees of the members of Parliament are also constituted for all the Railway Zones. Members of Parliament belonging to the area falling under a particular Railway Zone are nominated on the Informal Consultative Committee of that Railway Zone.
Unlike the Consultative Committees attached to various ministries / departments, the meetings of the Informal Consultative Committees are to be arranged during the session periods only.