Parliamentary standing committees no where in sight

Nearly three months since the 17th Lok Sabha first met, department-related standing committees, that scrutinise draft legislations and budgetary allocations to different departments, are yet to see the light of the day.

The exercise for the constitution of parliamentary committees commences during the first session of a newly-elected Lok Sabha, with the secretariat asking leaders of political parties to send in their nominations to 24 parliamentary panels.

In the recently concluded session of Parliament, the absence of standing committees has been a flashpoint between the Modi government and the Opposition, which claimed that Bills were passed in haste “faster than the time taken to deliver a pizza”.

So far, the Lok Sabha has only five committees in place namely the Business Advisory Committee, the Public Accounts Committee, the Committee on Estimates, the Committee on Public Undertakings and a two-member committee set up by the Speaker to examine the budgetary allocation made to the Lok Sabha.

The first session of the 17th Lok Sabha, which began on June 16 and concluded on August 6, passed 35 bills in over 37 sittings, with the House proceedings continuing till midnight on some days.

According to an analysis by PRS Legislative, 25 bills were discussed within five days of their introduction, while three legislations were introduced, discussed and passed on the same day in the Rajya Sabha.

Congress chief whip in the Lok Sabha Kodikunnil Suresh said his party had sent the names of its members to the Lok Sabha Secretariat and the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.

“It is for them to decide,” Suresh told DH.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi said there was no delay in constituting the committees. “Constitution of committees usually happens in September. It would happen soon,” Joshi said.

Standing committees are considered as mini-Parliaments as it has proportional representation of political parties in Parliament. The Committees also meet during the inter-session period to examine issues, legislations and budgetary allocations thread-bare in a bipartisan manner and submit reports to both the Houses of Parliament.

Department-related standing committees are a fairly recent phenomenon with the first such panels being constituted in 1989 to examine subjects such as Agriculture, Science and Technology, and Environment and Forests. The success of these three subject committees paved way for constituting 17 standing committees covering all ministries and departments of the government.

In July 2004, the number of department-related standing committees has increased to 24 from 16 under the Lok Sabha and eight under the Rajya Sabha.

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