Why in news? During the course of the 17th Lok Sabha, only 14 Bills have been referred for further examination for Parliamentary Committees. This represents a declining trend of national legislation being subjected to expert scrutiny
- As per data from PRS, as little as 25% of the Bills introduced were referred to committees in the 16th Lok Sabha, as compared to 71% and 60% in the 15th and 14th Lok Sabha respectively.
What are the role of committees?
- Committees go into the details of a specific piece of legislation, analyse the impact it may have on governance indicators, and then make their recommendations.
- Committees help with this by providing a forum for Members to engage with domain experts and government officials on matters that are complex, and therefore needs technical expertise to understand such matters
- It provide a forum for building consensus across political parties.
- The government is required to table an ‘Action Taken’ report for the House to judge the progress made on the suggestions of the committee.
- Even though committee reports aren’t binding on the government, it helps the legislature ensure an oversight on the executive.
- Objective assessments are only possible in the confines of a committee , where partisan divides dissolve to make way for consensus.
- Business Advisory Committee which prepares the entire schedule of both Houses when Parliament is in session.
- In Papers laid on the table , each individual paper is prepared after a careful and often long-drawn process of deliberation, writing and screening.
- In the functioning of Parliament, committees shoulder a big chunk of that responsibility.
Current relevance of the commitees
Digital Data Protection Bill.
- Justice Srikrishna Committee report was referred to Joint Parliamentary Committee chaired by P.P. Chaudhary, whose report came out in December 2021, following which the bill was withdrawn and a new Draft Digital Data Protection Bill was introduced for public consultation in November 2022.
- Several important laws such as the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill that seeks to raise the legal marriageable age of women to 21, the Anti-Maritime Piracy Bill that brings into enactment the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea for combating piracy in the high seas, the Jan Vishwas Bill that amends 42 laws across sectors like agriculture and media, the Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Bill that extends the scope of protected species, the Competition (Amendment) Bill, and the Multi-State Cooperative Societies (Amendment) Bill have all been referred to Committees.
- In the U.S., committees play a crucial role and Bills are referred to them post introduction for scrutiny. It allows changes to be made and the modified Bill to go for voting.
- The Parliament could consider a compulsory referral, for the Bills that are tabled on the floor, to the appropriate committees.
- Arming committee with more powers will help them ensure accountability from the executive instead of making them toothless tigers.
- It is essential for the parliamentary ecosystem in India to institutionalise such procedures and not allow political considerations to hasten law-making.