What Do The Committees Of Parliament Do?
A significant feature of the legislative process is the appointment of committees for various legislative purposes. These committees play a vital role not merely in law making, but also in the day-to-day business of the House.
Since the Parliament meets only during sessions, it has very limited time at its disposal.
The making of law for instance requires in-depth study of the issue under consideration. This in turn demands more attention and time.
Similarly, there are other important functions also, like studying the demands for grants made by various ministries, looking into expenditure incurred by various departments, investigating cases of corruption etc.
Parliamentary committees perform such functions.
Since 1983, India has developed a system of parliamentary standing committees. There are over twenty such departmentally related committees.
- Standing Committees supervise the work of various departments, their budget, their expenditure and bills that come up in the house relating to the department.
- Joint Parliamentary Committees have occupied a position of eminence in our country. Joint Parliamentary Committees (JPCs) can be set up for the purpose of discussing a particular bill, like the joint committee to discuss bill, or for the purpose of investigating financial irregularities. Members of these committees are selected from both Houses.
The committee system has reduced the burden on the Parliament. Many important bills have been referred to committees. The Parliament has merely approved the work done in the committees with few occasional alterations. Of course legally speaking, no bill can become law, and no budget will be sanctioned unless approved by the Parliament. But the Parliament rarely rejects the suggestions made by the committees.
How Does The Parliament Regulate Itself?
Parliament is a debating forum. It is through debates that the parliament performs all its vital functions. Such discussions must be meaningful and orderly so that the functions of the Parliament are carried out smoothly and its dignity is intact. The Constitution itself has made certain provisions to ensure smooth conduct of business. The presiding officer of the legislature is the final authority in matters of regulating the business of the legislature.
There is one more way in which the presiding officers control the behaviour of the members. You may have heard about the anti-defection law. Most of the members of the legislatures are elected on the ticket of some political party. What would happen if they decide to leave the party after getting elected? For many years after independence, this issue was unresolved. Finally there was an agreement among the parties that a legislator who is elected on one party’s ticket must be restricted from ‘defecting’ to another party.
An amendment to the Constitution was made (52nd amendment act) in 1985. This is known as anti-defection amendment. It has also been subsequently modified by the 91st amendment. The presiding officer of the House is the authority who takes final decisions on all such cases.
If it is proved that a member has ‘defected’, then such member loses the membership of the House. Besides, such a person is also disqualified from holding any political office like ministership, etc.
What Is Defection?
If a member remains absent in the House when asked by the party leadership to remain present or votes against the instructions of the party or voluntarily leaves the membership of the party, it is deemed as defection.
Experience of the past twenty years shows that the anti-defection amendment has not been able to curb defections, but it has given additional powers to the party leadership and the presiding officers of the legislatures over the members.
Bibliography : NCERT – Indian Constitution At Work