Monday, September 12, 2011

Parliamentary committees ....

Parliament is assisted by a number of committees in the discharge of its duties as it neither has adequate time nor necessary expertise to make a detailed examination of all the legislative measures.

Parliamentary committee means a committee that,
1. Is appointed or elected by the House or nominated by the Speaker/Chairman;
2. works under the direction of the speaker/Chairman;
3. Presents its report to the House or to the Speaker/Chairman; and
4. has a secretariat provided by the Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha secretariat.

Classification of Parliamentary Committees
Parliamentary Committees can be broadly classified in two types -Standing Committees and Ad Hoc Committees.

Ad Hoc Committees: This is a temporary committee, which cease to exist after the completion of the task assigned. This is further divided into two categories - Inquiry Committees and Advisory Committees.

Inquiry Committees are constituted from time to time to inquire into and report on specific subjects, for example, Committee on Stock Market Scam, Joint Committee on Bofors Scam or the present 2G scam.

- The advisory committees include select or joint committees on bills, which are appointed to consider and report on a particular bill.

Standing Committees: This is a permanent committee formed every year and periodically and works on a continuous basis.
The various standing committees in each House and joint committees (consisting of members of both the Houses) are as follows:
- Public Accounts Committee.
- Estimates Committee.
- Committee on Public Undertakings.
- Departmental Standing Committees.
- Business Advisory Committee.
- Committee on Private Members’ Bills and Resolutions.
- Committee on Government Assurances.
- Committee on Subordinate Legislation.
- Committee on Welfare of SCs and STs.
- Committee on Absence of Members.
- Rules Committee.
- General Purpose Committee.
- Committee of Privileges.
- Joint Committee on Salaries and Allowances of Members.
- House Committee.
- Committee on Petitions.
- Library Committee.
- Ethics Committee.
- Committee on Empowerment of Women.
- Committee on Papers Laid on the Table.
- Joint Committee on Officers of Profit.
- Consultative Committees.

Public Accounts Committee (PAC)
- The committee was set up in 1921 under the provisions of the Government of India Act of 1919.
- Presently it consists of 22 members (15 from the Lok Sabha and 7 from the Rajya Sabha).
- Members are elected by the principle of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote amongst its members every year.
- A minister cannot be elected as a member.
- The chairman of the committee is elected by the Speaker from amongst its members.
- Until 1966-67, the chairman of the committee belonged to the ruling party. However, since 1967 a convention has developed whereby the chairman of the committee is selected invariably from the Opposition.

- The function of the committee is to examine the annual audit reports of the comptroller and auditor general on India (CAG), which are laid before the parliament by the president.
- The committee examines public expenditure not only from legal point of view to discover technical irregularities but also from the point of view of economy, prudence, wisdom and prosperity to bring out the cases of waste, loss, corruption, extravagance, inefficiency and nugatory expenses.

Functions of the committee in detail
1. To examine the appropriation accounts and the finance accounts of the Union government and any other accounts laid before the Lok Sabha. The appropriation accounts compare the actual expenditure with the expenditure sanctioned by the Parliament through the appropriation act, while the finance accounts shows the annual receipts and disbursements of the Union government.
2. In scrutinising the appropriation accounts and the audit report of the CAG on it, the Committee has to satisfy itself that:
- The money that has been disbursed was legally available for the applied service or purpose;
- The expenditure conforms to the authority that governs it; and
- Every reappropriation has been made in accordance with related rules.
3. To examine the accounts of state corporations, trading concerns and manufacturing projects and the audit report of CAG on them.
4. To examine the accounts of autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies, the audit of which is conducted by the CAG.
5. To consider the report of the CAG relating to an audit of any receipts or to examine the accounts of stores and stocks.
6. To examine money spent on any service during a financial year in excess of the amount granted by the Lok Sabha for that purpose.

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